Penticton parents Anna and Aaron Moen remember the day their 13-month-son was diagnosed with cancer like it was yesterday.
“It was a Tuesday. May 9, (2014). He had a really, really bad cold,” Anna explained. “I decided to take him into the hospital. They ended up sending him for an X-ray to rule out pneumonia.
“The doctor came back and said they had found a shadow in his lung.”
Just like that, she said, they were on their way the next day to the B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver for more testing. A whole team was waiting for the boy, Aeson, when they arrived.
“They just kept calling it a mass,” Anna said.
It was the following Wednesday, she continued, when the news was delivered to her that the mass was actually a tumour the size of a golf ball and was cancerous. By Friday, Aeson was starting his first round of chemotherapy.
“The cold that he had was just coincidence. The doctor did tell us … if we had waited another six months, (cancer) symptoms would have started to come up, and it would have (spread) everywhere.
“When you find out a little kid has cancer, it’s not really realistic,” Anna said. “Especially when it’s your own kid.”
The family spent a month-and-a-half in Vancouver. Anna left her job and Aaron began working Monday to Thursday in order to drive from Penticton to Vancouver every weekend.
With no family on the coast, Anna and Aaron stayed in a hotel paid for by B.C. Residency. The hotel was in Richmond and a long commute to the hospital.
“The (old) Ronald McDonald house ... only accommodated only 13 families, so that was always full,” Anna explained.
But by July, the new B.C. and Yukon branch of the Ronald McDonald House opened, and the Moen family was one of the first to move in. It was like night and day to have a kitchen, to be able to cook and to have a large enough space for Aeson to play in rather than a hotel room, said Anna.
“People don’t realize what that atmosphere does for a family,” said Aaron. “The support that other families give each other. When we came back to Penticton after (Aeson) was done … it felt weird being here, like this wasn’t home anymore. That was home.”
At six years old, Aeson has been in remission for four-and-a-half years now. The family drives to Vancouver twice a year for check-ups, and continues to stay at the Ronald McDonald House.
“He’s super comfortable in the (Ronald McDonald) house,” said Aaron.
The Moen family is so grateful for the Ronald McDonald House, they host a golf tournament every year to give back.
In four years, the Moens have raised over $20,000 for the centre, while Aeson has resumed a normal life.
“What you see now is how he was. He never changed. He’s loves being outside. He loves school,” said Aaron. “He’s just like every other kid.”
They shared their story to help raise awareness about Ronald McDonald House and draw attention to its annual A Night to Dream Gala in Vancouver on Oct. 4.