Cari and Mike Comboye received news this month no parent wants: their young child has an inoperable, potentially life-ending brain tumor.
The Sooke couple are with their three-year-old son Liam at BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver as their family and friends rally around them for support. Cari’s sister Lindsay Walper says the couple is just devastated by the diagnosis, as is the rest of their extended family.
Walper, a long-time nurse at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital in Central Saanich, said Liam had been having balance issues and what his parents thought was a lazy eye, for a few days. When he wasn’t getting better, Cari took him to Victoria General Hospital on April 9. On initial observation, Walper said Cari was told by a doctor that Liam might have a virus, possibly affecting his optic nerve. Liam was scheduled for an MRI scan the following day.
Walper said due to his age, Liam had to be sedated for the test, but experienced both a breathing and heart rate emergency and both he and Cari were flown to Childrens’ Hospital in Vancouver to be stabilized. Afterwards, the MRI test was completed.
“You never think your child has cancer,” Walper said.
Liam was diagnosed with malignant glioma — a brain tumour that’s inoperable and almost always fatal. For the family, it was the worst news possible. Walper said doctors told the family Liam has anywhere from nine months to more than a year left.
“They got the news no parent should ever have to get,” she said.
Cari, who was already on maternity leave to care for their second son, Brody, five months old, was joined by her husband Mike who is taking time off work to be in Vancouver with his family. Walper said his co-workers pitched in some of their vacation days so he could be with his family.
Friends have also begun raising money for the family to help support them while they’re with Liam in hospital. There’s a GoFundMe page set up by Walper with a goal of $50,000. It’s reached just over $16,000 already.
A friend in North Saanich is hosting a Tea for Liam silent auction fundraiser on June 4 at a home on Tanager Road.
Walper added a few bottle depots in Greater Victoria are also collecting donations for the family.
The donations will help ensure the family can stay with Liam in Vancouver during his initial radiation and chemotherapy treatment. Walper said he will undergo the treatment for five days a week for six weeks. Following the initial round, and depending on how he responds, he might be able to go home. Treatment, however, will continue for weeks.
Walper said it was a hard decision for Cari and Mike, who did not want Liam to suffer and have a good quality of life. Walper said she’s grateful for their decision, as the family can spend more time with Liam.
She added the family is grateful for people’s support as they care for their son.
“And Liam, he’s … all things considered, he’s three … he doesn’t know what’s happening,” Walper said, adding the family is with him to help ensure he’s as comfortable as possible.