The Butt Family Hope, Chris, Connor and Nadine of Stephenville
Family is medicine, and right now it’s helping 12-year-old Connor Butt of Stephenville fight cancer at Ronald McDonald House
It is hard to put into words how a parent feels when their child has been diagnosed with a serious illness. It has to be one of the most difficult experiences for a family. And for families who don’t live close to the medical care and resources they need, there is an added stress, distance. RMHC gives families with a sick child what they need most – each other.
In January 2021, Connor Butt, eleven at the time, was experiencing pain on the left side of his back and was treated for a kidney infection. In May, the pain returned this time with a fever. His parents, Nadine and Chris, were pretty concerned. It was the day following Mother’s Day, that an ultrasound discovered a tumor, later diagnosed as Wilms Tumor. Also known as nephroblastoma, Wilms tumor can affect both kidneys, but usually develops in just one. Treatment usually involves surgery and chemotherapy, and sometimes radiation therapy. To get the medical care Connors needs meant relocating from their home, family and friends in Stephenville to St. John’s nearly 800km away.
For the Butt Family, Nadine, Chris, Connor and his older sister Hope, this was going to be a challenging road ahead in a city far from home. This is something no family could prepare for. They worried about numerous things, even the simple things, like where they would stay. Shortly after the Butt Family arrived in St. John’s, they were introduced to the programs and services of Ronald McDonald House.
“We initially heard of RMHC on TV and with the fire department where Chris works. They have volunteered as a group for McHappy Day in our hometown at McDonald’s in Stephenville. We also heard about Ronald McDonald previously as we have friends that stayed there before. When we found out we could stay there it was such a relief.” – Nadine Butt
One of the biggest advantages for families staying at Ronald McDonald House is being so close to the hospital. Nothing is as frightening for a parent or for a child as hospitalization. Ronald McDonald House is just steps away from our province’s children’s hospital which means that Nadine and Chris could take turns staying with Connor overnight while he was admitted in the hospital. Taking care of a sick child is one of the most draining and difficult tasks a parent can face. Beyond handling physical challenges and medical needs, parents also have to deal with their child’s emotional needs and the impact that a prolonged illness can have on the entire family. Luckily, this tough balancing act doesn’t have to be done alone. Families find support with other families staying at Ronald McDonald House.
“When Connor’s two-week visit became an eight week stay, Ronald McDonald House became a second home for our family, and its spaghetti-making, birthday cake-baking staff and volunteers became our family who went above and beyond to make a this situation not just bearable, but even enjoyable.”
Nadine added, “You truly don’t understand the value of RMHC until you stay there. Honestly, it’s a place that you don’t actually want to go to but it’s the most comforting place that I can ever think of being during a situation like this. Interacting with other families in similar circumstances is very helpful. At the beginning of our stay I wasn’t up to interacting with anyone and became closed off but once I opened up and spoke with another mom of a sick child it was so comforting. We became friends and could help support each other. As family is medicine, so are friends, especially ones who know what you’re going through. Interacting with the other families, volunteers and staff is something we look forward to. We are very social people and seeing the same friendly faces on a daily basis became part of our healing and we take comfort in knowing that our RMHC Family is there for us.”
While Connor’s journey is far from over, with treatments expected to continue into 2022, the Butt Family have found strength together at Ronald McDonald House and have come to rely on the vital programs and services offered.