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In 1999, when he was just four years old, Marc Normandeau was diagnosed with leukemia. He underwent treatments at The Children’s and recovered quickly. Until March 2008, he had been in remission and in perfect health for nine years. While Marc and his family were on vacation in Disney World, Marc became sick. He felt very tired and weak. His parents feared the worst. They brought him to the nearest pediatric hospital, where it was confirmed that, sadly, Marc’s cancer had returned.
Marc and his family flew back to Montreal immediately and went directly from the airport to The Children’s. Our doctors, who had been notified by medical staff in Florida, were waiting for them. “I remember the great feeling of relief as we walked through the entrance to The Children’s. I knew we were in the right place for Marc to get better,” recalls Marc’s mother, Cindy Intini. Marc had surgery the next day to insert a portacath, and has been receiving chemotherapy ever since.
Because Marc’s cancer is considered a relapse, treatments are more aggressive. “But as exhausting and difficult as they are, the treatments never seem to bring Marc down. We are so amazed by him,” says Pierre Normandeau, Marc’s father. Marc’s intense treatments are expected to finish this spring, and will be followed by a year of maintenance chemotherapy. If all goes well he could be back on the ice playing hockey this May. “I have not been able to play since I have been sick, I miss it so much,” explains Marc.
Marc’s hockey team misses him, too. Last winter, in support of their star goaltender, each member of the team shaved their head just before Marc began to lose his own hair to chemotherapy. This act of solidarity touched many people in Marc’s community of St-Lazare, and inspired a chain of fundraising efforts, all in support of Marc.
Bracelets inscribed with “Marc’s All Star Team” were sold in local schools; a women’s softball tournament was organized; after reading about Marc’s story, a student asked for donations in lieu of birthday gifts; Marc’s former piano teacher held a piano recital; a Montreal Canadiens T-shirt sale was held at Kuper Academy; and Vocera, Mr. Normandeau’s employer, also gave generously.
So far, nearly $25,000 has been received for the Marc Normandeau Fund at the Foundation, and funds continue to come in. “The outpouring of community support has been just tremendous,” says Cindy. With the money raised, Marc hopes to purchase a piece of medical equipment for the hematology/oncology ward, where he has spent so much of his time in the last year.
Because of his remarkable determination and strength, Marc was selected to represent The Montreal Children’s Hospital and Opération Enfant Soleil as part of the “Champions Across Canada” program presented by Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, due to his present condition, Marc may not be well enough to participate in all the activities related to this event, but he has without a doubt earned the right to be honoured as a true champion.