Twelve-year-old Nick Clarke battling cancer for the second time
© Danette Dooley
Nick Clarke with his parents Mike and Debbie Clarke
Battling cancer isn’t the only fight Nick Clarke has taken on.
The 12-year-old from Happy Valley-Goose Bay said the Janeway hospital needs a stable, public Wi-Fi network for patients, their families and hospital staff.
Nick is so convinced about the need, that he recently composed a speech for his Grade 7 teacher Sarah Michaud at Our Lady Queen of Peace School in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
“Wi-Fi is so common it’s embarrassing to think that it’s in our community hockey arenas, local restaurants, airports, etc. but not a children’s hospital,” Nick said.
Nick speaks from experience.
Being hooked up to an IV for hours at a time while toxic chemotherapy drugs and medications to fight infections run through his body is a regular occurrence.
The treatments take place day after day, week after week, month after month.
Nick has a donated iPad complete with a donated data plan. He also uses the hospital’s Wi-Fi on his laptop when it’s available.
He doesn’t know how he would get through the treatments if he didn’t have his iPad and laptop to take his mind off his illness, Nick said during a recent interview at the Janeway.
Listening to his speech, it’s evident that Nick misses his three younger siblings: eight-year-old Jacob, six-year-old Timothy and four-year-old Hanna.
“(The patient) would be able to take part in family events by using Facetime or Videochat. They’d be able to watch their siblings... they’d be able to read with their siblings, they’d be able to tell bedtime stories and they’d be able to say their prayers with their siblings... it would be great to help patients keep their sanity.”
Diagnosed with cancer at age four
Nick was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) in 2006. He’d yet to reach his fifth birthday. His treatments to fight his cancer continued for three years.
He led a normal life for several years, however, he relapsed with ALL in June 2013.
“Nick finished school on a Friday and we came here on a Monday. He had no summer, winter or spring to be a regular kid. But you do what you have to do,” said his mother Debbie Clarke.
Nick has spent the majority of his time at the Janeway since his relapse.
“Nick has gotten to go home a few times but he wouldn’t have been able to do that without the care he gets at Labrador-Grenfell (Regional Health Authority) and the chemo nurse Angie Lawrence,” Debbie said.
Debbie and her husband Mike Clarke take turns staying with their son. When he’s not at the Janeway, the family stay at nearby Ronald McDonald House.
The facility goes hand-in-hand with the hospital in ensuring both patients and their families are well taken care of, Debbie said.
“That’s a great spot,” Mike said of Ronald McDonald House.
A well deserved break
Debbie smiled when she talked about an IceCaps hockey game the entire family attended recently, thanks to Canada Fittings and Flanges.
“The guys from the company wanted to fly the other kids and his dad up and put them up in a hotel for a couple of nights. It’s only the second time we’ve all been out here together (since June 2013) so it was pretty amazing,” she said.
“They won the game, it’s the one that brought the team into the playoffs,” Mike said.
After the topic changed from sickness to sports, Nick was ready to add his two-cents’ worth to the conversation.
“Timothy and Hanna were really excited when they heard about going to the game but Jacob just wouldn’t believe it,” he said of his oldest brother.
While Nick’s prognosis is positive, Debbie said her son will likely remain in St. John’s and at the Janeway until at least September.
Debbie said she’s grateful to her mother (Betty Sampson) who lives in Port Hope Simpson but has been spending much of her time in Happy Valley-Goose Bay caring for Nick’s younger siblings.
Staff at the Janeway has been great to the family, Debbie said. And it’s not just the doctors and nurses and other health professionals who have been great, but also his teacher at the hospital, Tamar Kelly.
“She is an amazing woman. She’s become much more than a teacher to Nick.”
As well, she said, there’s been an outpouring of support from people in Happy Valley-Goose Bay ever since Nick’s diagnosis.
“When you have four young kids, your family probably stands out. And we’re very fortunate there’s been help coming from every direction…a lot of emotional support as well as financially,” Debbie said.
The Janeway Telethon
Nick is one of the 2014 Miracle Kids who will be featured on the Janeway Telethon this year. The telethon will be broadcast on NTV on Saturday, May 31 and Sunday, June 1.
“For the past 30 years the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador have helped to give our children the best care possible,” said the Janeway Foundation’s executive director, Lynn Sparkes.
“As we prepare for the 30th Anniversary of the Janeway Children’s Miracle Network Telethon, we wish to express our heartfelt thanks and appreciation for their kindness and generosity – for all our kids,” she added.
Nick’s wish for the Janeway soon to become reality
In an e-mailed statement from Eastern Health, the authority said the Janeway Children’s Hospital Foundation has agreed to secure funding to have Wi-Fi services installed at the hospital.
The implementation of the services has begun and is anticipated to be completed by summer 2014.
According to the statement, Wi-Fi is currently available to patients on the fourth floor (an inpatient floor for medicine, surgery and psychiatry patients). The Pediatric Family Resource Centre on the fourth floor of the Janeway Hostel also has computers with free Internet access.
How did Nick do on his speech?
Just as he plans on conquering cancer – he aced it.
“His teacher gave him five out of five,” his mother said.