Over the last several months, two special and very different residents of Sooke captured the hearts of the community, as both faced life-threatening medical challenges.
Now it seems each story is headed for a happy ending.
Lily Lecinana, 10, who in the past donated her hair to help cancer patients, was diagnosed last year with stage-four Burkitt lymphoma, a fast growing and rare form of cancer.
Her diagnosis rocked the community as is came on the heels of the tragic passing of another Sooke child – Hannah Day –who succumbed to cancer only a short time before.
It wasn’t long before the community rallied to support Lily. “For the love of Lily” T-shirts, fundraising events, a GoFundMe page and many prayers and messages of encouragement followed and soon everyone knew Lily’s name.
The other Sooke resident was as different from Lily as could be.
Sifu Moonfist, 59, a man who the community knew as a Buddhist Kung Fu master and an avid advocate for cleaning up Sooke’s streets, had begun to experience increasingly frequent and serious epileptic seizures that stemmed from malformed brain tissues.
Moonfist was dubbed a “superhero” by Sooke Mayor Maja Tait and his kindness and dedication to the community is legendary.
He also experienced the caring nature of the community as a GoFundMe page was established and donations came flooding in.
So while Moonfist was admitted to Lions Gate Hospital for radical brain surgery, Lily was at B.C. Children’s’ Hospital undergoing aggressive rounds of chemotherapy.
Both are now on the road to recovery and expressing their thanks to Sooke.
“I had no idea that a GoFundMe page was established for Lily. It was started by my neighbour, and I only learned about it afterward,” Lily’s mother, Meredith said.
“But you have no idea the difference that money made. We were in Vancouver for eight months, during which time I couldn’t work. The financial strain was something you don’t think about too much as I was busy thinking about Lily, but it’s always there. Having the community support made it a little bit easier.”
Moonfist and his wife Maggie had a similar experience.
“We’d been to Vancouver for two weeks last time he had to go for treatment and the hotel bill was more than $3,200. Then there were meals and paying for cabs or parking … it was all very expensive,” Maggie said.
“When we learned that we had to go back, the cost of the whole thing was going to make it very difficult. I can’t tell you what a difference it made to not have to worry about it when the GoFundMe money was there.”
Moonfist is home now and though he is still working through some pain issues, his seizures have disappeared. His speech and memory have improved and he’s hopeful that he will make a full recovery.
As for Lily, she’s smiling again. Home from the hospital, she’s returned to school.
“People have been so great. So supportive. When we came home there were “Love for Lily” signs all over and it made her smile. I just can’t begin to say how important all that support was,” Meredith said.
“The support we got, the love that we’ve been shown … that’s just what Sooke is all about.”