Nanaimo neighbours light up Christmas for family with two parents facing cancer

There have been some dark and challenging days for the Caverleys as both parents, Cindra and Bruce, are battling stage 4 cancer while trying to maintain a household for their three children.

But their Nanaimo neighbours have come together to help, stringing colourful Christmas lights across their home and organizing fundraisers to support the couple, who are unable to work.

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“We are a Christmas-crazy family,” said Cindra, 45, who said the tree is already up in the family’s living room. “And at this time of year, it’s easy to sit in a joyful place rather than worry, worry, worry.”

Last weekend, Bruce, 48, sat on his lawn and supervised while friends turned their Bob-O-Link Way home into a winter wonderland, with lights criss-crossing the roof, inflatable Santas and light-up reindeer gracing the lawn. Bruce was in hospital last Christmas when friends first decorated the home, so this is the first year he’s been able to witness the act of generosity.

The couple’s three kids, 16-year-old Molly, 11-year-old Addyson and nine-year-old Finnigan, were delighted to see the finished product and proud to find out their home will be featured on a Christmas lights map of Nanaimo.

“The kids’ friends came and helped,” Cindra said. “And to see it done at the end of the day, they love it, the joy of it.”

Bruce was diagnosed last year with stage 4 urethra carcinoma. He’s had rounds of radiation and chemotherapy, but a large mass on his spine causes debilitating pain, Cindra said, making it hard for him to sit or walk. He will undergo another round of radiation in December, which the family hopes will shrink the cancer.

“My husband is a very brave, strong man with a great spirit,” Cindra said, her voice breaking.

Just over five years ago, Cindra was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. She had a mastectomy on her left breast, but the surgeon was unable to remove the entire cancerous mass. Cindra chose not to have chemotherapy and radiation, instead opting for alternative therapies such as IV treatment with mistletoe extract and vitamin C. Cindra said the IV treatments are not covered by MSP and extremely costly.

She has a scan in two weeks that she hopes will show that everything is stable and the cancer hasn’t grown.

“When I was doing so well, we thought: ‘Someone is looking out for us,’ ” Cindra said. “When [Bruce] got diagnosed, I thought there’s no way it could happen to two parents.”

The community is rallying around the family, organizing an online silent auction and a fundraising page to help the family pay its bills.

Cindra, who previously operated an online business selling essential oils, receives disability payments through the federal government. Bruce, who had a long career in the lumber industry, is just coming to the end of his long-term disability payments through work and will transition to government disability payments, which are significantly less.

The payments don’t even cover the couple’s mortgage, “and then there’s everything else in life,” Cindra said. She said it’s hard having to rely on the generosity of friends and strangers, but time and time again, she’s blown away by the unwavering support.

“It’s hard to ask for help again,” she said. “If we didn’t have the support we’ve had, we would not have our home still, there’s no way.”

Aimee Rounding, a family friend who is organizing the silent auction, said she was worried about securing donations this year because so many businesses are struggling due to COVID-19, but she’s been overwhelmed by people’s spirit of giving.

“There’s been a couple times where I was in tears knowing we’re going to make a difference in their life right now and trying to give them a Christmas,” said Rounding, a mother of four whose oldest daughter is friends with Molly. Rounding said she welcomes any further silent auction donations and encourages people to bid on the items online.

“I have four kids myself and I can’t imagine being in a place where you’re struggling to keep your home and put food on the table and struggling to have Christmas,” she said.

Cindra said rather than gift-giving, this Christmas will be more about spending quality family time together, watching Christmas movies over bowls of popcorn and driving around Nanaimo marvelling at the best Christmas displays, their home included.

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