Great and her mom by the heart-shaped water fountain
There are moments in life that you don’t forget. For Lindsey, that moment came when doctors told her that her three-year-old daughter, Greta, had cancer. Just days ago, her life seemed so normal: juggling her job and kids’ activities and figuring out what to make for dinner after a long day. But with just one sentence spoken by a doctor, everything changed. “It was an out of body experience,” Lindsey said. “This is the moment where they tell me she has cancer.”

After a series of high fevers and a swollen stomach, doctors had performed an ultrasound that revealed a mass on Greta’s liver. It was cancer. After a surgery to remove 70% of her liver and many rounds of chemotherapy, Greta received the good news that she was in remission in March of 2016. That happiness was short-lived, however, as scans just five months later revealed that the cancer had returned . She would need a liver transplant to save her life, but that wasn’t going to be possible in her home country of Canada.

After joining a support group for patients like Greta, Lindsey learned of a doctor at Cincinnati Children’s who was working wonders for kids battling liver cancer. After a few phone calls, the family learned that their daughter would be able to receive a liver transplant in Cincinnati, but they would need to be within five hours of the city in order to make that happen. From their home in Calgary, every moment would count.

While some families must wait for months for that fateful phone call, Greta was lucky. Just six days after being placed on the list for a transplant, Lindsey received a call that there was a liver that was too good of a match to pass up. Within 24 hours, Greta had a new liver. Shortly after that, Lindsey got another phone call with good news: there was a room ready for their family at Cincinnati’s Ronald McDonald House.

With tears in her eyes, Lindsey explained what our House does for families who are far from home, facing their worst nightmares:

“There is so much to say. Having the House here takes away the ‘normal life stresses’ so you can focus on the big ones, the reasons why we are all here. There are always people checking on you and other families dealing with the same issues as you. Greta sees kids like her here and it’s a place for her to meet other kids. I can’t tell you what it means to have meals prepared for you every day. It’s something you don’t have to think about. Greta finally has the energy she hasn’t had for a long time and she literally runs everywhere. She loves going to summer camp each day and making crafts. We have been attached at the hip since she was diagnosed at 22 months old, but here, she will participate in the camps and doesn’t even look for me. From our summer camps to our craft room and playground, it’s the little things that help keep her busy while she has the energy. It’s so nice to see her participating in these things even though she is very sick.”

Greta returned home to Calgary in August 2017. Her cancer is very aggressive and treatments are now experimental. But she continues to fight and find joy wherever she can. While at the House, one of her favorite things to do was to help in our garden. One of our amazing volunteers, Linda, spent all summer redoing many of our planting beds and Greta was beside her much of the day. If you come to our House, you have Greta to thank for many of the beautiful pink flowers that now decorate our landscape. Since returning home, Greta has asked that we keep sending her pictures of the garden because it brings her so much joy.

When they were far from home and in a different country, Lindsey, Greta and her family didn’t feel alone in our House. Even though our city is not their home, they felt supported and safe.

“Two years ago, I would have never imagined being here in Cincinnati and staying in this House,” said Lindsey. “Life changed for me and it can change for anyone. This House makes me want to give back to my own local Ronald McDonald House to help families who find themselves in my shoes.”