Coreen Granger and her son Justice Granger have spent much of the past years in Vancouver as Justice battles leukemia. (Submitted photo)

South Cariboo family struggles through cancer and adoption

Trials and tribulation are met with faith and a reliance on family in the Granger household

For many of us, 2020 has already been an eventful and emotional year but this is especially true for the Granger family.

Made up of dad Jeremy, mom Coreen, eldest daughter Serenity, Justice and the newest addition to the family Lovemika the Grangers are a familiar sight at the Hillside Community Church which has been a huge support group for them in recent years.

Justice is eight and has been in and out of the hospital since he was two years old due to three bouts with leukemia and as a result, is a bit of a homebody and very close with his mother and father. Despite his health issues, he’s a laid back and happy child, said Jeremy.

“When he was two he was diagnosed with leukemia, turning yellow like a jaundice kind of thing, and we had him checked out at the local hospital and they did a blood test found it was leukemia and I think within three hours had him on a medical jet down to Vancouver,” Jeremy recalled.

After three to four months in the BC Children’s Hospital and two to three years of treatment, it went into remission when he was five but unfortunately had a relapse shortly after. The second round of treatment was more aggressive but didn’t take as long, Jeremy said and was finished up a month ago. However, even before he was done the treatment it came back again and Justice had to be flown down to Vancouver again, where he and Coreen are currently staying.

This time around Jeremy said the doctors believe a bone marrow transplant is the only option to treat the disease which is Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia: a fairly common cancer that fills up the bone marrow among children, compromising their ability to produce blood cells and platelets.

“The first time it was quite devastating and quite a surprise, but the doctors were very reassuring,” Jeremy said. “The second time it was a little less hopeful cause the odds of survival had gone down from 99 per cent to 80 per cent, so it was a little depressing but we knew what treatment looked like. We knew the hospital and Ronald MacDonald House so we were quite comfortable to slip back into that life, even though we didn’t want to.”

This third time around has already been the toughest, Jeremy said, as the odds aren’t nearly as good as a bone marrow transplant only works 60 per cent of the time. Justice also underwent surgery last week to remove a third of his right lung because of a fungus that began growing in it due to his low immune system from the treatments.

When asked what’s kept them going through these hard times, Jeremy replied that their faith and belief in God, along with the support and prayers of their friends, family and church community have really helped them. They’ve also already seen miracles happen with his treatment as, at one point, Justice was unconscious for three days after reacting negatively to an anesthetic. Despite the prediction this would cause brain damage, Jeremy said that’s not been the case as he’s grown up which fills them with hope.

“We’ve had huge financial support, meals and gifts from the community from friends, family and local churches,” Jeremy said.

Either Justice’s parents or more likely older sister Serenity will be providing the required marrow as they are the closest match. However, they’re still checking their bone marrow pool as it’s possible they may have a closer match to him in stock. Overall, Jeremy said Serenity wants to help her brother but is quite squeamish and nervous when it comes to hospitals and needles since hearing about everything he’s had to go through.

For now, however, they’ll be spending the next two months waiting for his cancer to go back into remission which, up until the lung infection, it had which is a sign that, thankfully, his cancer hasn’t become resistant to the chemo drugs.

“After having our first two kids, we definitely felt the desire to have a bigger family and have more kids but that was combined with the desire to help,” Jeremy said. “So, we discussed a localized or in-country adoption but we figured kids in the system in Canada still get a decent shot at an education and life so we wanted to go out of country somewhere where there’s very little hope.”

It was through Sunrise Adoption Agency in Vancouver that they met Lovemika a five-year-old the family recently adopted from Haiti. She just arrived this month after being delayed by the travel restrictions that followed COVID-19. Jeremy and Coreen first met her just over a year ago when they visited her orphanage in Haiti for two weeks where she had lived since she was one year old after her birth mother was unable to provide for her.

Jeremy said she was very quiet when they first met her and wasn’t too vocal when spending time with them. It wasn’t until the last few days that her shyness melted away and they started to see her more sweet and playful side.

Originally, they were going to fly to Haiti in March to pick her up and had booked flights just before COVID-19 shutdowns started going into place. When that flight was cancelled they spent the next few months trying to get her to Canada first on a repatriation flight but due to many of them being routed through the U.S., she was unable to take them, due to her citizenship. Finally, Coreen called around to work every possible angle with another adoptive mom until they were able to find a medical flight via a private jet that got her to Canada.

“That was a big relief because it had just been so many hoops to jump through, everything seemed to delay us,” Jeremy said.

Jeremy said he’s been learning new things about her ever since she’s arrived and that she overall has been adjusting quite well to her new environment. While some adopted children can have trouble with moving to a new country, Lovemika has been constantly asking questions ever since she got to Canada and has been amazed by the amount of space, toys and attention she’s been getting from her new family. She’ll also be learning English in the next few years as she currently speaks Haitian Creole, which is close enough to French that Jeremy can communicate with her.

Once their mandatory two weeks of quarantine with Lovemika is done, Jeremy said he’ll be taking her and Serenity down to Vancouver to spend time with Justice and Coreen. For the summer he intends for there to just be a real focus on family and spending time with one another.

“It’s tough to put into words. We are a family unit and we’re here for each other… and I’m just trying to foster in them the sense that we’re in this together and help each other out,” Jeremy said.

Assuming there are no more delays, Jeremy said his greatest hope is that by Christmas this year his family will all be back home and celebrating it together.

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Jeremy Granger (from left) smiles with his son Justice Granger and wife Coreen Granger at the B.C. Children’s Hospital. (Submitted photo)

Justice Granger in the hospital during one of his bouts with leukemia. Justice has battled cancer since he was two years old and will likely have a bone marrow transplant before the year ends. (Submitted photo)

Lovemika hangs out with Coreen Granger in March of 2019 when her future adoptive parents visited her in her home country of Hati. (Submitted photo)

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