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Orwell native Kara MacRae was literally beaming and bouncing with excitement Thursday at the thought of meeting her idols.
The P.E.I. chapter of the Children’s Wish Foundation sent the 12-year-old and her family off on a plane to see two Toronto Maple Leafs’ games and meet the team.
Diagnosed with cancer last year, Kara will go from enduring months of chemotherapy and losing her hair to watching her favourite hockey team warm up at ice level and then fist-bumping them as they come off the ice.
“This is a dream come true,’’ Kara told The Guardian just before boarding a plane in Charlottetown. “This is the dream of a lifetime. It’s something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.’’
It will be a welcome distraction from all of the treatment which required her family to travel to Charlottetown and to the IWK Hospital in Halifax.
It all began in March of last year when Kara complained of a sore throat. The source of the pain was a tumour on the roof of her mouth, which was removed and discovered to be cancerous.
Her mother, Violet Robinson, remembers getting the call from the doctor on March 21, 2018.
“It was pretty scary,’’ Violet said. “I mean, her father and I were both a basket case, like any parent would be. It was a fear of the unknown, of all the tests, the surgeries, the chemo every week.’’
Shockingly, Violet was diagnosed with cancer within two months of her daughter.
“I just came home, gave (Kara) a big hug, told her that I was diagnosed and told her God didn’t want her to go through it alone, so we’re going to do it together,’’ Violet said, tears welling up in her eyes.
Violet is still in treatment and will be until October. However, Kara is finished of her treatments. Doctors will perform scans and do tests every three months on Kara – a routine that will continue until she reaches adulthood.
The type of cancer Kara has — rhabdomyosarcoma — affects four in one million children.
“It’s been very interesting,’’ Kara said of the past year. “It’s been different.’’
Through it all, Kara has continued to play hockey (she’s a goalie) and attend Grade 7 classes at Vernon River Consolidated School.
“Positive attitude,’’ Kara said when asked how she’s done it.
“She’s had the most amazing attitude,’’ her mother added.
Kara preferred to talk about the trip, constantly looking at the clock, counting down the minutes until they were on the plane. She will be joined on the trip by Violet, as well as her father, Donnie MacRae, and stepfather, Scott Page.
Kara has already received personal video messages from New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (the Leafs host the Rangers Saturday night) and Maple Leafs forward William Nylander.
Kara said it took her “a second maybe’’ to decide what she wanted her wish to be when the foundation asked. The foundation grants wishes to children between three and 17 who are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.
“It’s been on my mind constantly these last few days,’’ Kara said of her trip. “I couldn't believe it (when I found out). I was so excited.’’
Jennifer Gillis, development and communications co-ordinator with the foundation, said they’ve spent a lot of time getting to know Kara and her family.
“She’s all personality, that’s what I see every time I talk to Kara,’’ Gillis said. “It’s incredible for me to think that she’s going through cancer treatments and yet she’s playing hockey, she’s going to school, she’s laughing, she’s active ... that’s very inspiring to us.’’
The foundation is currently working on 24 wishes on the Island, including Kara’s.
Big list of fun
- Following is what Kara MacRae will be doing in Toronto:
- Attend two Maple Leafs games
- Meet various Maple Leafs alumni
- Watch players warm up for the game at ice level and fist bump the players
- Participate in a Scotiabank Arena behind-the-scenes tour
- Leafs Nation Network will document the family’s day and post a video
- Family may also visit the set of Sportsnet to meet hockey analyst and Summerside native Doug MacLean and watch the show filmed (details yet to be confirmed)