When Michael Rumsby from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 13, his mom Michelle knew that she would be spending significant time in the hospital with him. When he relapsed a year later and had to undergo a stem cell transplant that time only grew.
“Over the course of two years, we spent numerous nights at the IWK for Michael’s treatment and recovery,” says Michelle Forrest, Michael’s mom. “Sometimes you just need a break from the hospital.”
The Ronald McDonald Family Room provided that break that Michelle needed.
“I remember coming across the Family Room by fluke,” says Michelle. “The paintings on the wall included a little boy who reminded me of my son. It drew me in.”
Michelle recalls her first impressions of the Family Room. “It felt like I was in a home. It didn’t feel like I was in the hospital. Yet I was still close enough to my son to have peace of mind and the break gave me the strength I needed to go back.”
Michelle’s favourite things about the Family Room included the delicious cookies, having a cup of tea and sometimes even taking a catnap on the comfy chairs or couches. She also chatted with other families who were visiting.
“It was nice to have a change of scenery and to be in a calmer and more relaxing setting.”
Michelle would get used to the change of scenery as she would visit the Family Room every week, sometimes multiple times, for two years while Michael healed.
“When Michael finished 100 days of isolation after his transplant, I would cook in the Family Room and we would eat meals here together as a family.”
Michelle and her family even used the Family Room to gather the day that Michael had his big surgery.
“We were all here waiting in the Family Room when the doctor came in and told us that Michael was still alive. And that he was going to be fine and they feel they had gotten all of the tumour,” says Michelle.
Michael has now been in remission for three years. He graduates high school this year and is now interested in volunteering at the Ronald McDonald Family Room.
“Volunteering takes the focus off of us and places it on helping others,” says Michael. “I spent a fair bit of time at the Family Room and have experienced what they’re going through. I want to give back to the community.”