Young Alberta cancer patient attends special summer camp as doctors plan next step
After months of hospital beds and painful procedures, three-year-old Greta Marofke had the rare opportunity to just be a kid this week, thanks to a special day camp organized by the Calgary-based charity, Kids Cancer Care.
“Sunrise is a day-camp program for kids between the ages of three and seven,” Kids Cancer Care CEO Christine McIver said. “Throughout the week they do camp stuff, but only in the city so they can go home and sleep at night, since they’re still pretty little.”
Ordinarily, Greta wouldn’t be able to attend day camp. She has cancer and underwent a liver transplant just two months ago, so protecting the little girl from germs is critically important. Because the Sunrise day camp offers a carefully monitored environment, kids like Greta are safe to just have fun.
“For Greta to be able to do something like this is amazing.”
“[Her brother] Ben has been to a couple of day camps this summer, so she’s seen it and she wished she could go. When I told her she could go to this one, she was so excited,” Greta’s mom Lindsey said.
Watch below from May 9: The mother of a Calgary cancer patient says three-year-old Greta Marofke is recovering well after undergoing liver transplant surgery in Cincinnati. Heather Yourex-West reports.
Greta was diagnosed with a rare form of pediatric liver cancer, hepatoblastoma, shortly before her second birthday.
Although the cancer was initially put into remission, the disease returned.
Greta’s parents were told their little girl would need a liver transplant in order to have any chance at surviving the cancer, but after reviewing the girl’s case, transplant teams in both Alberta and Ontario refused to do the surgery.
Undeterred, Greta’s mom reached out to a cancer specialist in the U.S. and in May, she had liver transplant surgery at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. The transplant was successful but since then, Greta’s cancer has spread.
“She’s got some spots in her lungs that we’re trying to figure out. She is taking a chemo right now. It’s an oral chemo – one that isn’t traditionally used for this type of cancer,” Lindsey said. “They’ve used it in Cincinnati before. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”
If the cancer responds to the chemotherapy, Greta will return to Cincinnati for surgery.
“They have a new technology there that helps them find all the spots really easily, to make sure they get it all.”
Greta’s family is confident this is the little girl’s best treatment option, but because the care is coming from out of country, they’re not sure who will pay for it.
“The worst case scenario is that it’s not funded by the province and both mom and dad and both sets of grandparents are bankrupt by this treatment,” McIver said.
In addition to providing camps for kids with cancer, Kids Cancer Care also raises money for pediatric research.
McIver believes that part of the reason Marofke has had to seek treatment outside of Canada is because pediatric cancer research is underfunded, accounting for only three per cent of all cancer research funding in Canada today.
As a result, treatment advances for rare cancers like hepatoblastomas aren’t often seen.
“Her liver tumour is thankfully rare, but when a case like it comes up, we want to make sure kids get the very best treatment.”
“Doing something like a liver transplant for Greta is really pushing the ball down the field, because if we can learn from what Greta has gone through, that is going to help the next child and the next child.”
The Marofkes are hopeful Alberta Health will eventually agree to cover their daughter’s medical costs.
In the meantime, a GofundMe page is still collecting donations. Over $312,000 has been raised for Greta as of July 20.
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