Nine-year-old free to frolic with the leprechauns
By Debra Downey, Senior Editor
Samantha Carvalho is free to be a kid again.
Free to draw and sketch.
Free to colour her rock ’n’ roll hair pink, or purple, or red.
Free to frolic with the leprechauns.
Free to live in a castle, just like a real princess.
Free of cancer; rid of pain.
Samantha, a beautiful, blonde-haired, blue-eyed youngster was only nine years old when she died on Sept. 16, 2012.
She had smiled bravely during a 26-month battle for life that included 31 rounds of radiation, six rounds of in-hospital chemotherapy, six months of at-home chemotherapy, surgeries, seven blood transfusions and 10 platelet transfusions.
When she died, cancer had completely taken over Samantha’s body. She was blind, immobile and her strength was sapped.
Samantha’s parents, Lisa and Paul Carvalho, heard the words no parent ever wants to hear on July 3, 2010. After suffering from early-morning headaches and vomiting, a CT scan showed a mass in Samantha’s head that was eventually diagnosed as a malignant brain tumour.
Thoughout her long journey, Samantha maintained a positive attitude.
“She didn’t really complain, even when she was feeling her crappiest and getting sick,” said mom Lisa. “And if you had a camera, she would always put on a big smile.”
Memories of their first-born’s endearing grin and a desire to assist other children help the Carvalhos face each day.
“I think if I didn’t keep myself busy, I would drive myself crazy,” said Lisa. “So I try to focus on the positive and focus on life because I think that is what Samantha would want me to do. She would want to see me continue living, and this is one way to do that, helping other kids.”
The Carvalhos spent the day last Thursday at Canadian Blood Services in Ancaster to launch the Gold Ribbon Campaign to honour childhood cancer survivors and remember those who lost their lives.
The campaign encourages people to rally their friends and families to collect 1,700 units of blood — one each for the 1,700 children who are diagnosed with cancer each year.
Although the Carvalhos live only a couple of minutes from Canadian Blood Services, Lisa and Paul had never given much thought to what went on behind the office doors.
“We’re learning about what went on behind the scenes, what went into Samantha’s treatment,” said Paul. “I’ve driven by here hundred of times and didn’t know how much it’s needed and how easy it is (to donate).”
The Carvalhos talked with members of the media and told their story to donors so people would know and understand the valuable contribution they were making in the lives of others.
“Parents don’t want to think about this, and I know that because I didn’t, not until life picked me up and threw me right into the middle of this,” said Paul. “Now I know this is an issue everyone needs to address and everyone needs a little courage to face.”
Samantha was a happy, creative, Regina Mundi student when her struggle with cancer began. As it became apparent she might not win the battle, her family took what they refer to as their Celebration of Life Tour. They spent a year travelling up north, enjoying weekend trips, visiting Disney and travelling to Ireland through the Make a Wish Foundation.
Samantha chose the Emerald Isle because she wanted to stay in a castle like a real princess. She wanted to meet a leprechaun; see dungeons and explore secret passageways.
“It’s a beautiful country. Samantha wore a tiara almost every day and we were treated like Canadian royalty,” said Lisa. “We will always have those memories.”
To donate blood, call 1-888-2-Donate (1-888-236-283) or go online at www.blood.ca to book an appointment.