VICTORIA -- The Island Kids Cancer Association is currently working with 120 families on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. All of the families are either going through cancer treatment, post-treatment or are dealing with the unthinkable, the loss of a child.

Susan Kerr is the executive director of Island Kids Cancer Association and the mother of Jacob Kerr, who lost his battle with cancer in 2019.

“Living on an island is isolating,” said Kerr. “When you have a child with cancer, combine those two factors and it can become immeasurable and have an immeasurable impact on a family.”

This grassroots organization works with 40 different service providers including psychologists, registered clinical councillors and specialized therapists.

“Every journey is different,” said Tania Downey, a family navigator with Island Kids Cancer Association and the mother of Zack Downey, who lost his battle with cancer in 2014.

“Every family is different, but the needs are always there. The needs are always the same,” she said.

The organization also provides additional services, such as connecting families with one another, financial assistance for families and gift cards.

“One family asked me for food,” said Downey. “Everybody needs food.”

The organization works closely with the Victoria General Paediatric Oncology Clinic, but official diagnoses for childhood cancer take place at BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.

“When you go home, that’s when everything changes,” said Meredith Lecinana, the mother of Lily Lecinana.

In 2019, Lily was diagnosed with Stage 4 Burkitt’s leukemia. She was rushed to BC Children’s Hospital where the family was well taken care of and received life saving treatment. When that treatment was over, they had to come home to the unknown.

“No one can understand it unless you’re going through it yourself,” said Lily.

“If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know where we would have turned to,” said Lily’s mother, Meredith.

Island Kids Cancer Association understands the challenges families face while enduring cancer treatment.

“There’s going to be travel and one or more caregivers are going to have to leave their jobs,” said Kerr. “There will be siblings left at home, there will be added expenses and reduced income for sure.”

Sometimes, all a parent needs is to know that they’re not alone.

“If I’m having a rough day, I shoot a text and I get an answer back from someone who understands what you’ve gone through,” said Meredith Lecinana. “Who else other than a mother that has been through cancer with their child would understand?”

It’s that compassion, understanding and support that the Island Kids Cancer Association provides families who are navigating their way through their cancer journey.

To find out more about Island Kids Cancer Association or to find out how you can donate, you can go to their website here.