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Toddler Proves That Big Fighters Come in Small Packages

by Shanine Sealey
Molly Dunville

Molly Dunville has experienced more in her two and a half years of life than many people do throughout their entire molly and sisterslifetime. The youngest daughter of Martensville residents Kristin and Ian Dunville, and little sister to Lily and Ella, Molly spent her first 11 months as a happy, healthy baby, then the family was told devastating news. Molly was diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma in November of 2016 after her loving parents began noticing some changes in their smiley daughter.

It was at that time that the Dunville’s saw that Molly was regressing in her walking and she began to slow down. Molly was also avoiding putting any weight on her legs and had an unexplained fever. The family made numerous trips to walk-in clinics and then to the emergency room at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon. It was here that an MRI was performed to rule out an infection in her hip joint. The results of the MRI changed everything, as it was here that a tumor was revealed to be on Molly’s right kidney in her adrenal gland. Upon further testing, it was discovered that the tumor had metastasized to spots on her arms, legs, facial bones and in her bone marrow.

Molly underwent 11 rounds of chemotherapy and in September of 2017, it was announced that all metastatic disease was gone and the toddler had beaten cancer. For nine months, life began to regain normalcy; Kristin and Ian returned to work, Molly was attending daycare and the family celebrated her second birthday.

As part of her recovery, Molly was required to receive MRI and MIBG scans every three months to ensure her small body remained cancer free. In May of 2018 Kristin and Ian noticed that Molly had a bruise under her eye that did not appear to be healing. Her regular scans were scheduled for June, so until that time, they continued to monitor her for signs of sickness; however, other than the bruise, their daughter seemed fine.

Life once again changed for the young family on June 18th of this year, as Molly’s oncologist confirmed that Molly had relapsed. “Because this was a relapse, her treatment plan would be much more intense than our first time around,” Kristin Dunville explained. Molly will be required to complete five cycles of chemotherapy in Saskatoon, with each cycle lasting five days. There is a two week recovery time in between each treatment. “We have currently finished three cycles. After her second cycle, we traveled to Calgary to harvest her stem cells, which will be used down the road when she receives high dose chemotherapy that will destroy all of her bone marrow. They collected 300 million stem cells and they are frozen and waiting for Molly when she needs them,” Kristin added.

After Molly completes her fifth round of chemotherapy, the family will travel to Calgary once again where she will receive a cycle of high dose chemo that will destroy the cancer cells, along with the healthy cells. Upon completion, the frozen stem cells will be returned to her body and she will be required to spend the next two months in the hospital, giving her body time to build the immune system back up. “Basically she is completely immune compromised and she will be kept in isolation. Ian and I will be moving to Calgary to be with her and our older two girls will stay in Martensville with family,” said Kristin.

Once the little fighter has recovered from the stem cell transplant, she will then receive immunotherapy, a therapy that uses medication to aide a patient’s immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells. “It works by giving her body antibodies that are made to target immature neuroblastoma cells. This process will be done over four months, and we are hoping it can be done in Saskatoon, although to date, it hasn’t been done here. If we can’t do it here, we will head back to Calgary during the therapy.”

A ‘Molly Dunville’ GoFundMe page was created as a way to help the family cover the costs during Molly’s treatment. The additional help will allow the parents to focus on their family during this time, and as requested by the Dunville family, any funds that exceed what is required, will be donated to Neuroblastoma research. In addition to the fundraising page, a family friendly dinner fundraiser will be held Wednesday, September 19th at the North Ridge Community Centre in Martensville. More information will be released at a later date.

kirstin and molly“This has been a difficult road to travel for our family. Prior to November 2016, I never thought about childhood cancer, I certainly didn’t hear much about it and I never imagined we would be living this nightmare. We have learned to take one day at a time, stay present in the moment and not let our fears overcome us. We often use the phrase ‘be brave’ because that’s what we are all doing in our own way,” Kristin stated. Throughout all of this, the family works hard to make each trip to the hospital as much fun as possible by bringing toys, playdough, books and the iPad. Having a solid support system in place has helped the family to continue to be brave. “My staff at MHS has become my extended family, always checking in on us, making meals for us, bringing treats and gifts over for our girls. Our families, friends and neighbors have reminded us that no one fights alone!”

On September 9th, the ‘Small But Mighty Gold Walk 2018’ will be taking place in Saskatoon. The purpose of this event is to raise awareness of childhood cancers in Saskatchewan. Organized by a group of pediatric oncology families, the walk will take place in the L’Ecole Canadienne-Francaise Pavillon Gustave-Dubois by L’Association Jeunesse Fransaskoise, located at 2320 Louise Avenue. “My hope is that no other parent would have to watch their child suffer from this horrible disease. More awareness, more funding and more research will ensure that our kids are getting the best treatment options and the safest drugs,” Kristin said. For more information about the event, visit ‘Small But Mighty SK’ on Facebook or email smallbutmightysaskatoon@gmail.com.

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