Submitted By Brenda Berube
Taber Terry Fox Committee
(Note: This story originally ran in the Sept. 10 print edition of the Taber Times ahead of the Terry Fox run on Sept. 13. It is presented here with photos of Brynn Lund, provided by her family.)
Brynn Lund’s battle with cancer began in July 2010 at the tender age of 10 yrs old. She was sitting on the sofa reading when she noticed a marble-sized lump on the sole of her foot.
Brynn was a worry wart about everything, so to calm her, mom Christy made an appointment for her to see her doctor. Dr. Torrie sent Brynn to Lethbridge for a CT scan the next day.
The results were inconclusive, so she was sent to Calgary for a biopsy later that week.
Three days later, on July 2, while Christy was at home alone, as her husband Kevin was in Red Deer working and all four of her children were out and about, she received a phone call from the Calgary Children’s Hospital. The caller told Christy the results of the scan were not good. Brynn had a rare form of cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma. It is a cancerous tumor of the muscles that are attached to the bones. It is rare for it to show up in a foot as it is usually found in the head and neck. Christy recalls she dropped to her knees and wept.
She was told that Brynn had to be at the Calgary Children’s Hospital the next day.
Christy called Kevin, who immediately left Red Deer for home. Kevin’s company gave him an indefinite leave of absence while Brynn was ill, so that he could be with his family during her treatment.
The whole family is very thankful, because none of them knew how long this battle would be. As Christy hung up the phone Brynn walked in the house and could see Christy crying. They sat down on the sofa together and Christy proceeded to tell Brynn she had cancer. They cried together, and Christy explained they had to go to Calgary the next day to see the doctor. Then she remembers Brynn asking if her hair would fall out, and if she could get a blonde wig. Then she got up went outside and jumped on the trampoline. Christy was amazed at how resilient Brynn was after just being told she had cancer.
The following day, Kevin, Christy and Brynn travelled to the Calgary Children’s Hospital where Brynn eventually underwent numerous surgeries and scans, so that doctors could determine what stage her cancer was at. Again results were not good, the cancer was found in the lymph nodes in other parts of her body, making her cancer stage four. Brynn cried when they told her, but then just as quickly she began to console Christy and tell her everything would be OK.
Brynn continued to be very brave throughout her treatment. To this point, she had absolutely no symptoms of illness. The whole family got to return home for a bit to prepare for chemotherapy.
On July 26, 2010 Brynn began a 51-week treatment plan of chemotherapy. She had a central line surgically implanted in her chest, so that nothing would be outside her body so she could still swim, but this meant that each time they needed to access it she had to be poked. The whole family lived at Ronald McDonald house for all of August as Brynn did not need to be hospitalized during her treatment. Family and friends begin hosting fundraisers to raise money for the family and some donated hats for Brynn to wear when she lost her hair.
Meals were donated filling their freezer. It was difficult for the family to accept the help but they were extremely grateful for it. It was also difficult for Christy to leave her three other children, once school began again and they returned home with Kevin.
Brynn’s first four weeks of chemo went well, and they returned home and she returned to school for a couple of days, wearing a mask of course, and carrying hand sanitizer everywhere. Each time a round of chemo was completed, they waited for a fever and when it arrived they rushed off to the hospital where Brynn began antibiotics.
She also had to endure nausea and mouth sores. There were many ups and downs over the next year as they awaited blood results to see if Brynn’s counts were high enough to undertake the next round of chemo. Many different types of chemo were used over the year, and all of her hair fell out. After each course of chemo was completed they would await the results of tests, MRI’s, bone scans, CT, ECHO, and ECG to see how her body responded. The family would fast and pray together for good results.
Oct. 5 was Brynn’s birthday and she worried that she would not be well enough to celebrate, but miraculously throughout Brynn’s treatment each time there was an important holiday or birthday she would always be well enough to travel and celebrate. Christy’s sister had planned a big fundraiser event “Trim for Brynn”. By the end of the day 10 hairdressers had shaved 55 heads and they raised $22,000.
Brynn also met with the Radiation Dr. in October, and after discussions of amputation and many tears, it was felt that it was not an option for Brynn because the cancer had already spread to other parts of her body. She would take 28 radiation treatments to her foot and lymph nodes in her groin.
She had to endure the pain of a huge blister that formed on her foot making it impossible for her to walk.
In November 2010, doctors harvested Brynn’s stem cells to be kept to transplant back into her body when her chemo was complete. Chemo would continue for another year. Over the first year Brynn spent over 300 days in Calgary living between Ronald McDonald house and the Calgary Children’s hospital. Many relationships were made with Doctors and nurses at Calgary Children’s Hospital, and with other families who also lived at Ronald McDonald House while their children were taking treatment for cancer. Each patient had a primary care nurse and Brynn’s nurse was JoJo, a nurse with 35 years experience and a heart as big as the moon! Brynn loved her and trusted her with her life.
Month after month the treatment continued, the scans at the end of each session and the prayers for good news. Brief trips home intertwined with days spent at the hospital brought a new normal for the Lund family.
Then, in September, another tragedy, Brynn’s dog Zoe, a beautiful young Golden Retriever suddenly became ill after getting into what they suspected was anti freeze. When the Vet said she wouldn’t live Christy talked to Brynn’s Doctors about taking her home to see Zoe. The Doctors did everything they could to help Christy take Brynn home where she spent the night with her ailing dog and was able to say good bye to her. They returned to the hospital the next day to finish out the week. Everyone was devastated by the loss of Zoe, especially Brynn. Zoe was Brynn’s dog and there were photos of her all over her hospital room every doctor and nurse knew about her dog Zoe.
A few months later Christy wanted to get Brynn another dog, but she didn’t want a Golden Retriever it was too hard to have a dog just like Zoe. Ronald McDonald House had a Labradoodle, and Brynn thought she might like one like that. So after a few phone calls by friends a local breeder was found and she offered the Lund family the guardianship of a 5 month old, beautiful caramel colored Labradoodle they named Suri. I met this beautiful creature she is so loving and gentle. It is like she has a 6th sense of what this family needs.
October brought the final chemo therapy treatment. Brynn spent many hours watching TV during her time at the Children’s Hospital and loved the “The Long Island Medium” and “Say Yes to the Dress”.
One day she asked JoJo, her nurse, what kind of wedding dress she had worn. JoJo told her she would wear it for her on her last day of chemo, and true to her word on Brynn’s last day of chemo she heard quite a commotion in the hall of the hospital and there was JoJo walking down the hall in her wedding dress!
On Nov 1st, 2011 Brynn would undergo a stem cell transplant, and they would return home to find some kind of normalcy to their life. Every three months they would return to the hospital for scans and the family would pray and fast for good results. They were comfortable that Brynn was in remission, and they would live their lives to the fullest. Brynn went back to school and dove back into all her activities, swim club, volleyball, basketball, baton and piano lessons.
In April of 2012 The Children’s Wish Foundation sent the entire family on a Disney Cruise. Christy said they almost felt guilty going because Brynn was doing so well, but their Doctors encouraged them to go. As she looks back maybe they knew something then that we didn’t. She is so grateful they went. It was an amazing vacation for the whole a family after all they had been through.
In October 2012 it had been a year since Brynn had finished Chemo, at a volleyball tournament she told Christy she had a pain in her back. Over the next couple of days the pain progressed and she became ill.
They went back to Calgary Children’s and the Doctors suggested a Pet Scan. The most devastating news was to come. When Christy went to the rounds meeting that morning she was stunned to hear a Dr. explain that the scan had lit up with hot spots. Brynn was relapsing.
This was more difficult to hear than the initial diagnoses. She would have biopsy surgery the following day, and a new course of treatment was laid. She began chemo almost immediately, but the prognosis was not good. Kevin began to do some internet research and found a treatment she could take with her Chemo. A Dr. in Nashville had been using this treatment with good results.
Kevin, Christy and Brynn flew to Nashville to meet with the Dr. and begin her treatment. She had a wonderful 3 days in Nashville. It seemed that each time a holiday or trip was necessary that there was some divine intervention that would make her well enough to go.
Brynn continued to travel back and forth to the Calgary Children’s hospital and it was her hope to be home for Christmas. She was home for Christmas, but not without a trip to Taber Hospital on Christmas Eve. The Lund family had 7 Christmas trees that Christmas.
They came home to lights on their trees outside & a beautifully decorated tree inside, all from family & friends.
It was also a sad time as Brynn lost yet another friend to cancer. The Lund family met so many other families at Ronald McDonald House that were going through the same trials as they were, and it was devastating to lose one of them as they too had become like family.
At Brynn’s request the whole family went to Phoenix to visit Christy’s brother during the school break.
Again Brynn was healthy enough to travel. Amazing that her week off of Chemo was during Christmas, and now again during the school break. Christy’s brother organized many activities for them. They went to a Phoenix Suns game and got to meet Charles Barkley, and a Coyotes game and were given a box. Kade got to ride the Zamboni when Brynn was too shy to do it.
Kevin & Brynn headed straight to Nashville from Phoenix for more treatment there.
When they came home and Brynn went for her follow up scans, the best gift yet, her tumors had shrunk considerably. She was able to do some of her treatments in Lethbridge so less trips to Calgary over the next month.
March scans brought mostly good news some of the areas of disease did not even show up anymore, but she had a lump on her leg that seemed to be growing and she was really scared. The whole family went to the cabin near Kalispell, which had become one of Brynn’s favorite places. On the way down Brynn said she would like to just cut her leg off and be done with it.
That was surprising because in the beginning it was one of the things she feared the most. The family had a wonderful time together skiing, even Brynn skied a whole day, and most fun of all they went dog sledding. When they returned she was scheduled for surgery to have the lump removed even if it came back it didn’t matter she needed it gone.
Bynn’s class at school was going on a field trip to Toronto, and they did not think she would be able to go, but at the last minute treatment plans changed and she and Christy were able to go. Once again blessed with good enough health to go! They had a wonderful time but it was not without a trip to emergency for a fever and a few calls to Calgary Doctors. In June Brynn’s dog Suri also had puppies, something Brynn had always wanted to have with Zoe.
She spent hours with the pups, as the breeder left the pups with the family for her to enjoy. They were great medicine for Brynn! At the end of the school year Brynn won the Citizenship Award for always being so kind to everyone. On June 25th Brynn, Sadie and Christy went to see Taylor Swift in Edmonton.
Uncle Corb arranged for back stage passes & they had a photo with Taylor. The girls were ecstatic.
Sadly, Brynn began to have pain in her back and shoulder blades so back to Calgary they went for another scan. Exactly three years to the day of her original diagnoses they were told the cancer had spread to more parts of her body. It was hard to keep their spirits up when Brynn would say “I’m just sick of being sick. I want to be normal again.”
But she would not give up! She began more chemo and radiation. When her hair began to fall out they had a head shave and Brynn, Christy & Christy’s sister all shaved their heads!
After Brynn’s last radiation treatment the family travelled to Connecticut to spend 10 days with Christy’s brother and his family. The trip was fun they shopped, went to Time Square, saw the Broadway show Wicked and a Yankees game. The trip was not without complications though. Brynn had a rough flight, and many pain filled nights. They returned home and had to see the Dr. the next day.
They did an MRI and the results were not good. She had a growth on her spinal cord that could have severed her spinal cord at any moment. She had to go into emergency radiation immediately, which continued right through the weekend.
It is now the end of September 2013 and Brynn had a rough 3 weeks after coming home from New York. She was home and back to Calgary and home and back to Calgary. One morning she woke up and had found a lump on the side of her head. The doctors said there were some lesions on her head there in the last scan and they were probably growing.
Kevin & Christy decided to take all the kids out of school and bring everyone to Calgary. Brynn was in the Oncology ward, but they could not accommodate the whole family so they prepared them to go to the Rotary Flames House.
Christy feared telling Brynn they had to move. When she first became ill she asked what it was for, and never believing they would ever go there she told her its where patients go for respite care.
The decision to move was made mostly by her Doctors and Nurses, they could not go to Ronald McDonald House because Brynn needed nursing care. Brynn was very distraught over the move and felt her Doctors and nurses were giving up on her.
Christy said the walk to Rotary House was heart wrenching! The one positive to moving there was Brynn’s dog Suri could come too. Within a couple of days Brynn settled in and they could all see that it was the right move.
Each day they tried to do some type of outing for the family, and Brynn returned home for a weekend. She returned to have radiation on the lesion on her head, and then she would return home one more time for her 14th birthday on October 5, 2013.
They spent the day watching home videos of Brynn as she grew up. They were reminded of what a delightful child she was, how easy she was to raise, and how much she had taught them in her short life time. She was home for a couple of days then they all returned to Calgary. This time they were told by the Doctors they were there to stay.
Each day that she was well enough they would get a pass and do something. One of her favorite things to do was go to Red Lobster for crab legs. Kevin would shell them and dip them in butter and feed them to her. The staff at Red Lobster came out one day and said that they would pay for Brynn’s lobster as long as she kept coming. Once again the family was blessed with so much kindness.
Brynn’s pain began to increase and it became increasingly difficult to keep her spirits up, so Christy suggested that each day she write down one blessing at the end of the day that she was thankful for. The family became very aware of how precious time was and they were so thankful to all be there together.
On October 19, 2013 the day she was due to come into the world, Brynn Joelle Lund passed away peacefully at the Rotary Flames House in Calgary with her big sister Sadie holding her hand and her family by her side.
All of Brynn’s nurses and doctors came in to pay their respects as they learned of her passing. Two missionaries that Kevin had met earlier came and helped them pack Brynn’s things. With their loss deep in their hearts they drove home.
Brynn’s battle was over. Her pain and suffering were gone. As Christy and I tearfully looked around her living room at the end of her telling me about Brynn’s cancer journey I saw a beautiful drawing of Jesus with a little girl resting her head against his. That is exactly how I think of Brynn now peacefully in the arms of Jesus.
It is for people just like Brynn that I ask you to participate in the Terry Fox Run to raise money for cancer research.
This year’s Terry Fox Run will begin with a bake sale at the Scotia Bank at 9:30 am Friday September 12th. The run will commence at 8:30 am with registration at 8:00 am Saturday, September 13, 2013.
The Terry Fox Foundation donates .84 cents of every dollar you collect directly to research.
Please collect your donations or sponsor yourself to walk, run, bike, rollerblade what ever you choose, so that we can raise money for cancer research to help someone just like Brynn, win their battle with cancer.
The Lund family were happy to tell Brynn’s story if it helps to get new research to give kids a better chance.