For Alex and Valerie Mandarino, Light The Night – an annual fall event for Canadians affected by blood cancer – will have special significance this year.
It was in November 2014 that Alex arrived home, in Brampton, Ont., from his classes at McMaster University in Hamilton with flu-like symptoms. His mother, Valerie, took him to a medical clinic where they were shocked to find out that he had acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Chemotherapy and radiation therapy were to start immediately.
Caring for her son was "a real struggle," recalls Valerie, 54, but she found support – and a good deal of hope – in a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada (LLSC) program called First Connection, where a mother who had a son much like hers with the disease talked her through many difficult moments.