Valemount Elementary School Principal Stan Keim and kindergarten student Traevyn take a moment during the Terry Fox event on Sept 22nd. /SUBMITTED

By Andrea Arnold
The Valemount Elementary school participated in the Terry Fox Run on Friday September 22nd. This year’s event held special meaning for at least two of the participants.

One of the students, five-year old Traevyn was declared “NED – No evidence of disease” on July 20th 2023 following 18 months of treatment for stage four high risk neuroblastoma. It had metastasized to his bone marrow

Since his diagnosis at three and a half years old, his mother, Alyssa Lippert says that Traevyn endured six rounds of Chemotherapy, resection surgery, then 21 rounds of radiation, followed by six rounds of Immunotherapy.

“We stayed in the lower mainland for 18 months for his treatments,” said Lippert.

Throughout treatment, the family had to make decisions regarding the treatment that Traevyn would undergo, with no guarantee of the outcome. Lippert kept their support community up to date through posts on Instagram.

At the beginning of June 2022, as they were in Vancouver awaiting his first treatment, they were told that within three months, the doctors expected Traevyn to lose most of or all of his hearing. The treatments resulted in the loss of his high frequency hearing abilities.

“With Neuroblastoma they usually do two high dose stem cell rescues,” said Lippert. “We sought out second opinions from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and pushed to skip that part of treatment.”

They made that decision based on the information that the treatment is designed to completely wipe out your body’s ability to make stem cells, in theory killing any unseen Neuroblastoma cells. “Neuroblastoma is highly aggressive and super relapseable hence why they throw every single type of treatment possible at it,” said Lippert.

Although he has been declared NED, Traevyn will need many more appointments to monitor his health and progress. They will head back to BC Children’s in October for his first set of follow-up scans which he has every three months for the first year post-treatment, once every six months for the second year, and then once a year after for the remaining three years.

Lippert said that throughout the treatment journey they felt an overwhelming level of support from friends and family. However, since returning home, they have found that there is not as much support in place as they navigate the adjustment back to normal.

“Traevyn has some emotional regulation struggles,” she said. “Also, there is not a lot of mental health support available, not only for him, but for us as well.”

New principal, Stan Keim feels an extra connection to the family as his own family has been dealing with several different cancer diagnoses in the past few years.

“My mom passed away over a year ago from kidney cancer, ” said Keim. “My one brother has chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and my other brother has stage four glioblastoma.”

“They are a remarkable family and I admire Traevyn for overcoming some huge hurdles in his life at such a young age,” he said. “I’m so honored to be involved in this family’s journey.”

Keim reported that the Terry Fox Run was a success. They completed a circuit in town, accompanied by Cpl. Devon Reid and other members of the detachment.

“The students were all excited to support research for cancer and to learn about how Terry Fox was a “game changer” for Canada,” he said. “It was great to have parents, teachers, police and community show their support for Terry Fox and his legacy.”

Lippert said before her son’s diagnosis she didn’t realize the prevalence of childhood cancers. In Canada, an average of 900 children under the age of 15 are diagnosed with cancer each year.

“Awareness is everything. If we can help just one other person, that is a pretty big feat,” she said.