We All Need a Bit of Magic
Yesterday marked my final appointment at Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) and the University Health Network. I am filled with so many mixed emotions – gratitude, anxiety, nervousness, joy, and sadness. I am especially overwhelmed with sadness knowing that my final day at PMH also marks my son’s final day at Magic Castle.
When I think back upon this breast cancer journey my memories are tickled with moments of pure joy, and saturated with warmth and love. These beautiful, rich feelings are derived from the amazing care provided by ECE, Alketa, and her team of fellow ECEs and volunteers at Magic Castle Daycare – a centre within PMH that allows mommies and daddies to drop their children off in a safe and nurturing environment, so that their children can be sheltered from the dark and harrowing epoch that is cancer. My only regret is that I did not know Magic Castle Daycare existed, and so in my earlier days of diagnosis, tests, surgery, and follow-ups, I was forced to drag Liam to the appointments with me. He was a handful – crying, fussing, and generally unhappy to be in these situations with me, and I was too. I hated exposing Liam to these harrowing times but I was a stay-at-home mommy, which meant where I went, Liam went too. We couldn’t afford childcare. Thankfully my parents travelled into the city to help at these times, and would often take him out of the room; but the stress of knowing Liam was upset was too much to bear and distracted me from what the doctors were saying and what I needed to know and understand. And because my parent(s) left the room, my second set of ears to hear what the doctors were saying left too. It was all so overwhelming. And it wasn’t until a month and a half into my cancer journey did my social worker introduce me to the daycare. I was surprised to know about it. I was relieved it was available – free of charge! And I was very grateful.
From the outside, Magic Castle doesn’t look like much. It is small – a rather small space occupying an even smaller portion of the main lobby of PMH. But once the door is opened and you walk into the room, hand-in-hand with your child, you instantly realize why the daycare is called Magic Castle. It truly is magical. Immediately you feel wrapped in a blanket of tenderness, nurturing, warmth, love, and serenity. There are endless activities for children of all ages, cleverly organized to encourage creative play; and the smiles on everyone’s face is heartwarming and reassuring. In that moment you know that your child will be safe. Your child will thrive. Your child will laugh, play, and possibly even learn. To know that your child is attended to by these amazing angels of Magic Castle allows you – the parent – to fight your fight against cancer. And that is what Magic Castle allowed me to do. Magic Castle gave me the freedom to fight because it guarded my most precious miracle, my son.
Liam was 23 months old when I left him in the care of Alketa at Magic Castle Daycare. He was great on his first day – no tears and all play! He even got a stuffed dog to take home in honour of his first day; but on his second and third visits he cried endlessly. Alketa remained undaunted and incredibly patient. She held and soothed him each time he cried, and because she was so nurturing and gentle, Liam’s forth visit was a success! After just a few tears shed he was raring to go – excited, playing, interacting, and even learning. He was overjoyed to be at Magic Castle. As time passed, and as my appointments grew further apart, Liam would ask to see Alketa. He would beg to go to Magic Castle; and on the days he was there he would not want to leave.
For 20 months, Magic Castle has been an integral part of my son’s life as well as my own. And at three and a half years of age Liam is saying good-bye to Magic Castle, as am I. This bittersweet good-bye is almost too much to bear. Alketa is an angel, and she will forever in my heart remain my son’s guardian angel. Her warmth enveloped us, and she sheltered my son when I could not. For this, I am forever and always grateful.
Magic Castle is truly magical; as are the staff that safe-guard the children; as are the Donors that fund the centre. And we all need a little bit of Magic, especially in our darkest of times.
We All Need a Bit of Magic. Published by Crystal Joy Hall