A Fernwood family is focused on memory-making with its youngest member as the toddler faces his latest bout with cancer and his sisters head back to class.
Bishop, nicknamed Bash, or Bashy by those who love him, was returning to his rambunctious ways in the wake of several rounds of chemotherapy and targeted radiation, dad Robert Kemp told Black Press Media.
By summer 2021, two-year-old Bash was generally ahead of the curve in the balance department – walking and running with ease – perhaps partly because he’s a pandemic baby. Robert had previously travelled a lot for work, and when he couldn’t anymore, instead spent a lot of time home with his youngest, Bash – a premie who arrived at 34 weeks and still roared into the world at nearly six pounds. Little Bash loved riding the then-new cargo bike and excelled using the balance bike on his own. That lifestyle change inspired a new family business, Bishop’s Family Cycle, which opened in early 2021.
In late July 2021, Bash was suddenly unbalanced and throwing up. After a doctor’s appointment over the phone, an hours-long visit to Victoria General Hospital ended at 1 a.m. when scan results showed a brain tumour.
Fortunately, Robert’s parents were visiting, so they watched older sisters Hazel, who turns 11 this month, and Edie, 8, while Bash was airlifted to B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.
The Victoria toddler endured seven months of chemotherapy there as an in-patient with mom by his side and dad flying back and forth. Five rounds of chemo, a stem cell transplant, another round of chemo and Bash was ready for focused radiation, only available in Seattle.
Last April, Bash was discharged, and the Kemps were all home again, enjoying family life right through summer.
The cancer treatment includes routine scans to watch for spread or recurrence. And while Bash seems more robust and healthier, the family recently learned cancer has spread to his spine.
As his sisters return to school, Bash and his dad head for Vancouver for radiation treatment to shrink that tumour and “let him be his normal happy self a little longer.” Treatment starts Sept. 7. The silver lining is that they can come home for weekends because it’s outpatient care.
Except for the tumour, he is not at imminent risk of dying or becoming very ill. The cancer is expected to spread, and when it does, survival rates are very low, Robert explained. Everything now is considered palliative care.
Victoria does not have pediatric hospice, so the family has met with the Canuck Place in Vancouver team that provides hospice and palliative care to children with life-threatening illnesses and expects to spend some time there this month. DNA testing will also be done on his tumour to see if Bash is eligible for a clinical trial.
“We’re not giving up on him, but our most important piece right now is quality of life because we don’t know how long he has,” Robert said.
The current focus is family. Robert and Liz want to take him travelling. As a pandemic baby, there are many relatives who’ve never met young Bishop.
“We hope to take some time as a family and have him meet everyone and make some good memories,” dad said.
They’re still working out what that looks like, but right now, there’s potential for camping, a pastime Bash loves, with a small trailer road trip.
An online fundraiser has helped support food, travel, and other necessities costs over the last year.
The family hopes people will also consider donating blood to the Canadian Blood Service – among the health services they’re grateful for. “I don’t think people understand how many blood transfusions are required for someone like Bishop,” Robert said.
“We appreciate what everyone has done for our family and the support for our business as we hope everyone will continue to be patient and supportive. This is not something anyone thinks they’re going to have to go through,” Robert said.
Find the fundraiser at gofundme.com/f/help-the-kemps-travel-to-bc-childrens-hospital.
Learn how to donate blood at blood.ca.
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