Against all odds, Victoria boy marks 'milestone' on St. Patrick's Day
Published Friday, March 15, 2019 11:13AM PDT
Last Updated Monday, March 18, 2019 8:16AM PDT
With his big blue glasses and a silly grin on his face, four-year-old Konnor Worobec faces down Maple the pig during a family outing at the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm.
It’s not clear who started it, Konnor or Maple, but the two engage in an impressive snorting contest, a back-and-forth cacophony of grunting and snuffling.
All at once, his brother, mother and father stop to watch. This is a moment to remember.
Konnor is just being a kid, like any other kid, except that he is celebrating two years of being cancer-free.
"St. Paddy's Day marks the cancer-free anniversary. It's absolutely amazing to have gone so many years of living in that constant fear of never knowing if it was going to progress, and now to be able to say that he's finally cancer-free is a humongous milestone," said Tricha Worobec, Konnor’s mom.
Konnor is pretty much oblivious to the whole thing. His attention is on Maple.
He is too young to understand that other kids haven’t spent their lives in and out of hospital.
To him, it is normal, he has been doing it since he was seven weeks old.
That’s when his mom noticed something different, the way the light hit his eye seemed strange, the pupil looked white.
Their doctor sent them to BC Children’s Hospital, in Vancouver, for testing right away, where Konnor was diagnosed with cancer in his eye, starting the family on a terrifying journey.
“It’s really hard to articulate into words, when you're in the darkest place in your life and you are so full of fear and you're handing your most precious gift over to somebody and trusting them, to make sure that they're safe,” said Tricha.
Intensive treatment for Konnor included cryotherapy, laser and chemotherapy treatments directly on his eye.
Unfortunately, Konnor still grew more tumours and due to a gene mutation, doctors knew he could develop cancer in the other eye.
On St. Patrick’s Day, 2017, surgeons removed Konnor’s right eye.
The resilient little boy woke up from surgery, with a giant bandage covering his eye, and immediately declared himself to be a pirate, offering a hearty “Arrr Matey” to his mom.
To the outsider it may seem surprising, but the day Konnor’s eye was removed is a beautiful memory for his family.
"Twentt-four hours after he had his eye removed, he was running in full speed down the hallways of BC Children's Hospital, screaming at the top of his lungs that he was cancer free," explained Tricha.
Somehow, even at the toughest times, they felt like everything was going to work out because they had a special group of doctors and staff on their side.
"Knowing that BC Children's Hospital does miraculous things and works miracles we knew that it was inevitable that he would become cancer-free," said Tricha.
Having been by Konnor’s side through everything, big brother Roman Worobec sounds wiser than his eight years.
"I wanna say thank you BC Children’s…” he started out, then stopped for a long, thoughtful pause before continuing, “…for keeping my brother alive."
He was often the only one who could soothe Konnor.
“When he was crying and sick from chemo, Roman could crawl into his crib and he would sing to him and he would make him giggle and his focus was always just to help Konnor along his path,” said their mother.
Roman was quick to respond when asked how he felt, knowing his brother is now two years cancer-free.
"It just feels amazing, I just can't describe it, it feels so good," said Roman.
He didn’t stand still to talk for very long.
Konnor drew Roman’s attention away, first to ducks, then the pair raced off, trying to catch up with a stampede of goats galloping past.
Their parents then took off after the boys, trying to catch up.
A day like this is everything they had ever dared hope for. Not just life for Konnor, but a full life, away from a hospital room.
"To see his full spirit come out, he's not stuck in a small room, he can run everywhere, he can play and he can scream as loud as he wants with fun. There's no holds barred with that kid," said Tricha.
On this two-year anniversary, she wanted more than anything to express her gratitude to staff at BC Children’s Hospital, but realizing there were no words big enough, she settled for the simplest of messages.
“Thank you doesn't cut it when someone has saved your child."