Timo Kaid watches as his two-year-old daughter, Leila, plays with a new friend on one of the big comfy armchairs at Ronald McDonald House Southern Alberta. “She’s strong,” he says describing the sweet, wide-eyed toddler. “She has a fighter’s spirit.”
Just then, Leila decides to make more room for herself on the chair, much to the dismay of its other occupant – a cheerful young girl named Ica. “Maybe she’s a little bit of a bully too,” Timo adds sheepishly. “She loves other kids but we’re still working on sharing.”
Working on sharing. A phrase every parent of a toddler can empathize with. And while it may require extra time and patience on the part of Timo and his wife, Hana, childhood milestones like learning to share aren’t something they take for granted.
“I want her to be like a normal kid,” says Timo. “I want her to run around and get dirty, do all of the things I did when I was her age.”
Since arriving here, a sense of normalcy is something their family has strived to maintain.
“March 15. That’s when it all began,” recalls Timo.
Leila had been eating less and sleeping more. Things that normally wouldn’t draw a reaction were making their daughter fuss. Sensing that something was wrong, they took her to the doctor. Just a few hours later, what had begun like any other day was turned upside down by a phone call from the doctor. Leila had Leukemia.
“What? My daughter has cancer?” Timo recalls thinking in shock. “As a parent, you don’t know what to think.”
They were told to pack a suitcase as they would need to travel from their home in Fort McMurray to Edmonton to begin Leila’s treatment right away. Just a few hours later, the family was en route to the airport by ambulance. Making all of this more stressful was the fact that Hana was thirty five weeks pregnant. The couple had yet to hear if she’d be allowed to fly. After getting the green light, they boarded a plane to Edmonton where, upon arrival, Leila would begin her first round of chemotherapy.
As the reality of their situation began to sink in, Timo and Hana were faced with the other realities that come with having a sick child.
“We didn’t know what to do,” Timo says. “I remember thinking, are we going to have to stay at a hotel? What am I going to do about my job? We still have a mortgage to pay.”
That’s when a social worker at the hospital told them about Ronald McDonald House. They would stay at the House in Edmonton for nearly a month while awaiting the arrival of their second child, not wanting to travel again until the baby was born.
“She was really strong,” Timo says of his wife. “She impressed me a lot. She took on so much and made it look easy.”
Baby Sophia was born on April 20, 2017. Shortly after, the new family of four travelled to Calgary where they would stay at Ronald McDonald House Southern Alberta while Leila continued her treatment at Alberta Children’s Hospital.
“It’s been more than we could ever imagine,” Timo says of the House. “ This place is kind of like a utopia. Leila just loves the whole House. First and foremost, she loves the staff. She’s always playing with them and visiting them.”
But what the Kaid family has been most touched by is the generosity they’ve experienced.
“You come to a place like this and you realize that there are so many people out there doing so many amazing, generous things for people. It makes you want to be a part of it. Once we’re through this phase – we’ve talked about it – we have to find our calling. Some way that we can give back and pay it forward.”
Timo and Hana are confident that time will come soon. Leila is in remission and nearing the end of her treatment.
“It’s a long road ahead but we’re almost there. You don’t wish anyone to go through something like this but at the same time, we feel very blessed. Honestly, we’re just touched in a way we’ve never been touched before. And we’re very optimistic. I know she’ll beat this.”