Eleven-year-old Lily Lecinana had tears in her eyes as she surveyed the mountains of cans and bottles that filled Sooke’s SEAPARC Leisure complex on Saturday.
The Sooke cancer survivor had the idea to hold a bottle drive to raise money for Tour de Rock, and the community answered with more than 100,000 bottles dropped off in a single day. Combined with cash donations and about 15,465 bottles collected at Lily’s home in the two weeks leading up to the bottle drive, that translates to $14,673 raised for the Canadian Cancer Society Tour de Rock, which funds pediatric childhood research and programs for kids like Lily.
“Because we’ve lost so many kids with cancer this year, she said: ‘How can we help?’ ” said Meredith Lecinana, Lily’s mother.
“I think she had no idea [the bottle drive] was going to take off like that. She was just blown away by all the support. It means a lot to her.”
This year, Lily is a junior rider for the Tour de Rock, which has been revamped to adapt to the pandemic. Instead of one team of 24 cyclists who ride from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to Victoria, mini teams of alumni riders will ride on each of the 10 days in their local communities. The event kicked off Wednesday, with riders cycling across the North Island, and ends in Victoria on Oct. 2.
Lecinana said her family met many cancer survivors during the bottle drive who said they were inspired by Lily’s story.
Lily is in remission from stage four Burkitt’s leukemia, a rare, fast-growing blood cancer. Lily’s cancer was discovered on April 7, 2019, one week before her 10th birthday. What started as flu-like symptoms and an upset stomach led to a series of ultrasounds, an MRI and news that the family had to fly immediately to B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver for a biopsy. Lily didn’t leave that hospital until November, as she underwent six rounds of chemotherapy.
Lecinana and her husband, Jose, were separated from their two oldest sons, Ethan and Keagan, during Lily’s treatment. Lecinana’s stepdaughter Jasmine lives in Ottawa, but thanks to funding through a charity, flew to Vancouver to be at Lily’s bedside.
During treatment, Lily developed mucositis, which prevented her from eating and speaking.
“She was in some extreme pain,” her mother said. “On the bad days, she cried and said: ‘Mommy, take my pain away.’ That’s pretty devastating, to hear your 10-year-old say she doesn’t want to live anymore because the pain was so bad.”
On the good days, Lily would sing and laugh with the younger kids and play practical jokes with the nurses.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a new challenge for the family, requiring them to maintain a tight bubble to keep Lily safe.
Lily was also upset when school moved online in March because she had spent months away from her classmates and friends when she was in treatment.
Lily’s last scan in August was clear, showing no new signs of disease. Her doctor said it was safe for her to return to school, so Lily started Grade 6 at Journey Middle School.
“She was gung ho for school,” Lecinana said. “Lily has an incredible spirit about her.”
Katie DeRosa is one of the alumni riders for this year’s Tour de Rock. To donate, visit tourderock.ca