LABRADOR CITY, N.L. – After a 355-night stay at Ronald McDonald House in St. John’s, five-year-old Natalia Williams and her mother Ronda will be returning home to Labrador City later this month.
Ronda and her daughter have spent the last year in St. John’s after Natalia was diagnosed with a type of blood cancer called acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
The child’s treatments included 38 rounds of chemotherapy.
Natalia loves unicorns and rainbows. No matter how sick her daughter felt, Williams said, her child had a smile on her face most of the time.
“She was very strong; much stronger than me,” Williams said during a recent phone interview.
Looking back on the past year, Williams said, the hardest part of her daughter’s cancer journey was being away from family and friends.
Her older daughter, Haidyn Race, who is now 14, remained in Labrador City with relatives so she could remain in school.
Williams said people supported her through various fundraisers and also reached out to offer words of encouragement.
“It wasn’t just my family I left, it was my friends. They are part of your life,” Williams said.
While she missed her family and friends, Williams had nothing but great things to say about living at Ronald McDonald House for the past year.
“I could sit there in the dining room with three other moms and we could talk about hemoglobin and platelets. And they got it. We all knew what was happening to our child.”
From the staff to the volunteers, she said Ronald McDonald House was there for her at every turn.
Not every child gets to have princesses attend their birthday party, Williams said, but that’s exactly what happened when Natalia turned five.
“Cinderella, Belle and Ariel came to Ronald McDonald to celebrate her birthday with her all because of Ronald McDonald House,” she said.
Although Williams and her daughter have checked out of Ronald McDonald House, they will be staying in the St. John’s area (enjoying a camping adventure with other family members) while Natalia undergoes 10 rounds of radiation.
“After that we still have maintenance, once of a month of chemo. We’ll still be coming back to St. John’s every three months and we’ll be staying at Ronald McDonald House.”
Christine Morgan, Ronald McDonald House NL director, development and communications, said Ronald McDonald House helps keep families with a sick or injured child close to each other and provides the care and resources they need, when they need it most.
Ronald McDonald House offers safe, low-cost accommodations in a welcoming atmosphere for families who have children receiving medical attention in St. John’s, Morgan said via e-mail.
“Thanks to our donors we were able to be there for (the Williams family) during treatments, delays, good days, bad days.... We were able to give Natalia the greatest gift of all, her family during her 5th birthday celebrations, the holidays, Easter and, most importantly... her mom to tuck her in each night,” Morgan added.
Williams encourages people to donate to Ronald McDonald, not only financially, but of their time.
“They welcome volunteers who cook and bake, others do crafts with the kids, they have movie nights, they have therapy dogs visit. There’s just so much you can do to support Ronald McDonald House. It’s just a phenomenal place,” she said.
For more information on Ronald McDonald House visit www.rmhnl.ca.