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Cards from Labrador brighten Christmas for English child with cancer
William Atkinson with his mother, Eliana.
A woman from Happy Valley-Goose Bay helped make Christmas better for four-year-old boy in England who is battling cancer.
As of Dec. 25, William Atkinson had received over 1,100 cards from people all over the world — including many from Labrador and other parts of the province.
The cards sent from the Big Land are the result of a connection between William’s grandmother Kathy Atkinson and Patsy Bridle of Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Bridle volunteered with Forever Searching, an organization Kathy co-founded in 2007. The organization helps raise awareness about missing children throughout the world.
While the two women have never met, Kathy asked Bridle to share her online post asking people to send her grandson Christmas cards.
Bridle was happy to do so.
“My family started sharing the post on Facebook and other people began sharing it. It spiralled from there,” Bridle said during a telephone interview.
Bridle said people contacted her from all over Labrador as well as other parts of the province and country and in the United States asking for William’s mailing address.
She also contacted government officials and has been told recently by Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair MHA Lisa Dempster that she and Premier Dwight Ball and other members of their government will be mailing William cards.
“It’s really amazing how the internet works,” Bridle said.
Knowing that William has received cards because of her efforts is a great feeling, Bridle said.
“This really makes my Christmas and even the fact that the family is accepting cards into the New Year, I’m excited over that,” she said.
‘He waits for the mailman’
William lives in Dorset, England, with parents Eliana and Jonathan Atkinson and seven-year-old brother Gary.
He was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in May 2014. His parents give him oral chemotherapy every day. The treatments will continue until November 2017.
The treatments have compromised William’s immune system and have affected his development including his speech and walking. William walks on his tiptoes to relieve muscular pain caused by the chemo drugs. His issue with walking will hopefully be corrected through surgery once his chemo treatments are behind him.
On the advice of his oncologist, he did not start school this year.
The Atkinson’s journey is a lonely one. The family doesn’t go out as often as they’d like to for fear of William coming in contact with colds, flu, and other infectious diseases.
Kathy said she started the Christmas card campaign knowing that one of the highlights of William’s day is when the mailman drops mail through the door slot.
She described her grandson’s reaction to his mail as “absolute excitement.”
“He waits for the mailman and gets impatient when he is not quick enough — he has hugged and thanked the mailman and tries to carry the crates in himself as he insists on opening them all. No one is allowed to help him, he gets quite grumpy with you if you try,” Kathy said via e-mail.
Kathy said William’s mother goes through the cards with him. His father helps him remove the stamps from the envelopes as they are also kept as keepsakes.
William is too young to understand what’s happening to him health-wise, however, his grandmother said that the messages of support he is receiving are welcomed and appreciated by the family.
“Some of the messages have been so beautiful that they have had Eliana in tears,” she said.
‘As a family’
Elaina does her best to ensure the needs of both her children are met.
Her older son, although only seven, is a “wonderful, brave child,” she said and is very protective of his brother.
Gary does well in school, Eliana said, and helps her around the house with the chores.
“As a family, we have been quite aware of the impact that this could have on (Gary), with William receiving so much attention from not just the family but from friends and strangers. But, we include him, and ensure that he understands and that he doesn’t feel disjointed... The key thing for us is to ensure we communicate with Gary and make him feel a part of the good and the bad,” Eliana said via e-mail.
Eliana’s hopes for William’s future are that he completes his treatments and becomes cancer-free and that the disease never returns.
Once the treatments are finished, she said, he can start to live his life like any other normal little boy – something that he has been robbed of since his cancer diagnosis.
Her greatest wish for her son is that he grows to be a strong, healthy man and lives a healthy life.
Elaina has a message for those who have taken the time to send cards to her son. A mere thank-you doesn’t seem enough, she said, as the outpouring of love, support and encouragement from people all over the world has been “overwhelming.”
“I don’t think people understand the true meaning of receiving these cards. They have provided the whole family with renewed hope and encouragement, and one day when William is older he, too, will understand how people, strangers from every corner of the world, cared enough for him for them to send him a card. It is a very special gesture.”
Cards and well wishes can be sent to Master William Atkinson, 16 Alderbury Close, Swanage, Dorset, BH19 2SN16, UK.