Amy Lavier has a friendly and open way of sharing her family’s story. It’s not an easy one, but it is beautiful.
Amy and her husband Pres were excited to start their family so when Pres was deployed to Afghanistan it put things on hold. A helicopter crash landed Pres back in Canada which led to their son Cameron being born in February of 2012. Amy has often thought that the gift of Cameron’s birth was made possible by extraordinary circumstances.
And Cameron was an extraordinary baby; happy and easy going, with an amazing ability to make a friend. Amy saw it so many times, “you’d take one look at him and be hooked.” This family was thriving and enjoying life.
In November of 2014 Cameron mentioned pain “in my bum.” Crohn’s disease runs in the family so Amy and Pres asked for a referral to CHEO. Many theories were considered, including a milk allergy, but Cameron didn’t eat dairy and all tests came back clear.
By November of 2015 Cameron was visibly limping but there were still no answers and the family was frustrated. In the spring, Cameron saw a chiropractor where manipulation around his tailbone brought a large lump to the surface. The family rushed to the Emergency Department.
There were many tests and theories until an MRI ordered to check for arthritis revealed that Cameron had cancer. The news was a devastating shock and the prognosis was bone-chilling. Cameron’s cancer was a rare malignant rhabdoid tumour, and it was stage 4. The tumour that had been making it hard for Cameron to walk and sit was 11 cm long and had metastasized to his lungs and lymph nodes.
The summer of 2016 was spent at CHEO, the medical team was hopeful, they were treating for a cure. But Cameron’s little body was struggling. Doctors kept trying, and there were some improvements, but the cancer was virulent. On November 1, 2016 Cameron went to Roger Neilson House for respite. The next day the medical team said they were now treating for comfort. Cameron was sleeping more, his behaviour was changing and on November 4, 2016 he passed away surrounded by his family.
What makes parents like Amy and Pres share their heartbreak? Maybe because Cameron was so smart, kind and loving. Maybe because they decided to have another child and the miracle that is Matty arrived. Maybe to let other families know they are not alone. It could be all of these things anchored in the pride parents take in their child and the joy of saying their name and celebrating their life.
Amy and Pres have gone further to honour Cameron’s life with an endowment fund through Forever CHEO supporting oncology research and CHEO’s Family Assistant Fund. Their vision is to increase research into hard tumours like Cameron’s and to support families grappling with the costs of food, shelter and transportation that make a cancer diagnosis even harder.
Cameron will always be part of this family, his picture is in every room of the family home, Matty knows his big brother and talks to him often. Amy says she feels she has two sons, “one who lives here with us, and one who lives in heaven.”
There is sadness in this story, it’s easy to feel that Cameron’s life was too short, but this family focuses on the quality of his life. Amy recalls, “I promised him that I would spend the rest of my life making sure his life meant something.” For everyone who hears this story and who understands the pride these parents take in their two sons, it is impossible to see Cameron Lavier’s life as anything but meaningful.