You could see the joy in her eyes, and on her face despite the mask—Katelyn Slater rang her cancer bell with enthusiasm—as she ended 829 days of IV chemotherapy last month. And, the at-home oral treatment earlier this month. The grade 3 Walter and Gladys Hill Public School (WGH) student marked the special occasion with her parents, Michelle and Chris, and the school community.
The entire school was decorated with unicorns and messages of encouragement as Katelyn, 8, walked the hallways ringing the bell along with her friends, and staff.
In June 2019, Katelyn was diagnosed with T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma, a rare form of aggressive non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma while she was in Kindergarten; and was treated at the Stollery Children’s Hospital. Her parents said the school has been a huge support during her journey.
“It’s overwhelming that it’s been so long. We’ve been so involved that we didn’t want to look too far ahead and it feels so good to finally be here and have this support. This is very special,” said her parents after the ceremony.
Brendan Toner, Principal, WGH, learned of Katelyn’s condition when he joined the school three years ago as Principal. He shares the background for the event.
“Katelyn’s mom told us that she was nearing completion of her treatments. She mentioned the bell-ringing process at the Stollery. I felt that we needed to share an opportunity for her to celebrate at school, so we started to chat about what that looked like. I called it a ‘victory lap.’ We both agreed it would be a great idea and Ms. Hrovat started to look at the details,” shares Toner.
“Classes decorated their doors in a unicorn theme as Katelyn is our unicorn. Katelyn was shy, but she walked down the halls with two friends ringing her bell nice and loud, while classes cheered. She met her class outside and they were given bells to ring as a team. From there, Ms. Hrovat got her a special bell that we will keep at the school as a token of the special day,” Toner added.
He adds, Katelyn’s parents appreciated the amazing gesture, and the school community was beyond supporting.
“I think Michelle and Chris appreciated the chance to have Katelyn celebrate her accomplishments at the school. The Slater family has been through a lot and Katelyn is a survivor. They’ve shared that the school was a positive light for Katelyn during the treatment.
“Our kids understood why we were celebrating. They did a great job bringing enthusiasm and sharing in this special moment. Her class especially was very excited they could do this together.”
“Over the last couple of years we have had to deal with a lot of negative things that have caused a lot of stress. However, when you stack that up against a child struggling to beat cancer, all of the issues with Covid, floods, and anything else becomes insignificant.
“Acknowledging the amazing story of her battle, talking to the parents, and putting yourself in her shoes is real stuff that makes all of your other problems pale in comparison. It also makes you want to share her victory with the world. WGH is super proud of her courage and resilience dealing with a nightmare scenario,” Toner adds.
Way to go Katelyn. We’re all so proud of you. We wish you eternal health and happiness.
-with files from Dawn Booth, FMPSD communications coordinator
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