When the COVID-19 pandemic hit North America, five-year-old Ben Boon had already experienced a lifetime of physical distancing.
The Port Coquitlam resident is currently battling leukemia and the recent public health crisis has added to his family’s anxieties about keeping germs at bay.
“We have always been very cautious about where we go and who we are around,” said Stephanie Boon, Ben’s mother. “Now we have to be really cautious.”
Ben was diagnosed on Feb. 7, just as the COVID-19 crisis was starting to ramp up. Stephanie said it has been difficult adjusting to Ben’s illness at the same time as the outbreak of a global pandemic, but they have found some positives during this difficult time.
On Thursday, Ben turned five, ushering in his birthday with a parade of fire trucks, police cars and sheriff’s vehicles, which came by the Boon’s Port Coquitlam home.
Stephanie said her son loves cars and trucks and runs to the window every time an emergency vehicle drives by. Ben was elated to see the procession come down the street to personally pay him a visit, she added.
“It just made his day,” Stephanie said. “They really made our family’s day.”
Ben’s chemotherapy takes place at BC Children’s Hospital every seven to 11 days, a pace that is expected to continue until at least 2023. On his eighth birthday, Stephanie said the family will have a clearer picture if the battle is won or if more treatment will be necessary.
“So much can happen,” she said, later adding: “He has been a real champ through this all. He puts up with so much even an adult wouldn’t want to do.”
In the meantime, getting by financially has been difficult for the family.
Both parents are not working right now as they deal with their son’s treatment regime and the COVID-19 crisis has further complicated the situation. The family of five — Ben has two sisters — has not been able to leave their home because of the physical distancing restrictions and rely on neighbours to deliver groceries.
Still, Stephanie said the family is adjusting to their situation and sisters Audrey, 10, and Emily, 8, help make sure hands are washed and surfaces are cleaned.
Days like Thursday’s birthday party, which the Boons got to share with their friends and neighbours, give the family the boost to keep going, Stephanie said.
“It brings a lot of happiness,” she said, adding: “We are coping. You just have to find the positives.”
• A Facebook donation page has been setup for the Boon family, with a goal of raising $20,000. To contribute, search for “5 Year Old Ben’s Leukemia Fundraiser.”