Poppy White was named in honour of her great grandfather, a veteran who fought in the Second World War.
Befitting of her heritage, Poppy is set to hit a major milestone on Remembrance Day.
“There is no end date to the cancer journey but there is for chemotherapy and it could not come at a more serendipitous time with her first day of no treatment being Nov. 11,” explained her mom Jenny White.
“Poppy is named after her great-grandfather who we all called ‘Poppy’. He passed away just before Poppy was born,” White explained.
Poppy’s dad, with whom she shares a birthday, was also named after the war vet.
“It is all meant to be,” White said, adding the family chooses Remembrance Day to see all the things their cancer journey has brought to their family to make them stronger and closer than ever before. As a tight-knit family of eight, it’s been a feat to come this far together.
“It has been a long, bumpy road,” White said. “Since we heard those horrible words ‘it’s cancer’, 815 days have passed and our little girl has been battling every step of the way. There isn’t really a way to sum up all that we have experienced, all that we have felt. This journey has changed our whole family forever. It is not something you prepare for as a family and when raising children it’s not really something you think much about until you’re forced to face it head on.
Poppy is 13 now and is a seasoned traveller, spending time between her home in Cowichan, and at B.C. Children’s and Victoria General hospitals to treat her Acute Lymphblastic Leukemia.
Her parents, Jenny and George, have had to find a way to juggle Poppy’s travels and treatments in Vancouver with raising their other five children on Vancouver Island.
“Our family has been challenged. When a child gets cancer the whole family gets cancer,” White explained. “Poppy has to undergo many painful procedures and many many many days of chemotherapy making her feel horrible. She suffered many nasty side effects and as a family we suffered right alongside.”
White said it’s hard to put into words what the last two and a half years has been like.
“As the many months went on for treatment, our family was separated by a body of water. We are a family that stays together,” she explained. “We have home-schooled our kids, we do life together, so to be separated was painful.”
But the Whites have found a way to get through it. One daughter was in university. Another was a senior in high school who stepped up to manage the family farm, her classes, work, scholarship applications and helping drive her 10th Grade sister. Everyone has pitched in.
“We had to leave some older children at home while we took the younger girls with us to Vancouver,” White said. “Sometimes George had to stay home. Sometimes he had to come. We just had to do the best we could. Any time we were apart it was heart breaking.”
The process has also made their family acutely aware of the fact that “no one can do this parenting and living life alone,” White said.
“We have been shown the value of community time and time again. We have been shown how people are good and kind and giving. We have always been on the other side, the giving side. It’s much harder to be on the receiving side. We have been humbled in a way we can’t explain. When you sit in darkness and pain and heartbreak there is a light of kindness and love that people in our community have shown us. It has kept us going more than we can say,” she said. “We are forever grateful for all those in our ever expanding community who have shown us there is always a light in the dark.”
People have stepped up for the family in any number of ways — both large and small — from sending over meals to stacking wood, hosting fundraisers, praying, to watering the gardens and walking the dogs and even at harvest time, too.
“Know that you all have helped and supported us through the darkest time in our lives and you have given us hope and faith that there is more in this world. That love prevails. And we are forever grateful. Your prayers have meant everything to us,” White said. “We are so thankful they have carried our girl through this journey and will continue to as she grows, heals and lives her very best life.”
Curious about Poppy’s progress? Follow @poppyshealingjourney on Instagram.