He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

Published on Tuesday, 18 June 2024 08:19

When a loved one gets sick, it takes the strength of friends, family and loved ones to help them get through this, and sadly that isn’t always enough. MacKenzie MacLeod received some devastating and heartbreaking news that her brother, Robert MacLeod, is in the fight of his life and needed her help.
“In late April 2024, my brother Robert who is 26 years old, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) with an FLT3 gene mutation, which is a very aggressive form of blood cancer that requires intensive long-term radiation, chemotherapy, and an allogeneic stem cell and bone marrow transplant, once a donor is identified,” said MacKenzie. “This cancer is very dangerous, and without a transplant, Robert has 29 percent survivability beyond five years.
“His wife, Ashley, is 35 weeks pregnant and they have a young daughter, MacKinley who is under the age of five. Robert has been admitted to the University of Alberta Hospital and is still fighting to achieve remission. This cancer is fast-acting and his prognosis is poor. The goal is to get his body into remission so that he may be healthy enough to be transferred to Winnipeg, where he can receive the exact kind of treatment needed for this particular blood cancer.
“My brother is larger than life, literally,” said MacKenzie. “He stands over six feet tall, has broad shoulders, is physically strong, mentally tough, and has been hard working to support his family. He possesses the vigour inherent in young adults with their entire lives ahead of them. Robert is an avid outdoorsman, hunting, trail quadding, boating and smoking meat.
“Robert had just begun his application to the RCMP days before his diagnosis. His dream was to be an RCMP officer, raise his children in Minitonas, and live a life full of love, adventure and memories. Today, while Robert accepts his fate and mentally prepares to go to war against this blood cancer, he shares how when he finally returns home to Minitonas, cancer-free, he looks forward to driving truck for Rick Bresky and keeping his life simple and close to home.
“Since cancer entered our lives at the end of April, my brother told me, he just wants to get better so he can be a good father to his children, a good husband to his wife, and he will never leave home again,” said MacKenzie “As cancer does its work and the medical team tirelessly works to save his life, Robert understands that this is an insidious illness and he has a long gruelling battle between him and recovery. We are terrified, sickened with the fear of losing him, his life cut short at 26 when our social laws of nature dictate, that he is to have a long happy life, not fighting for tomorrow in a hospital bed hundreds of miles from home.”
Not only has MacKenzie been an emotional support to her brother, but she is taking it a step further to raise funds and future support for any family from the area, who may have the unfortunate experiences her brother is currently going through.
“This diagnosis immediately halted our lives,” said MacKenzie. “We as a family, discussed how we could logistically position ourselves to protect and support Robert and his family while ensuring his best medical outcome. It was clear that money and safe-adequate-affordable housing close to HSC where he must receive multiple treatments of chemotherapy and radiation each day are our greatest barriers. Robert is unable to work due to his terminal illness and Ashley, on maternity leave, has been a dedicated mother and wife never leaving her husband’s side. As a young couple with a little girl and another on the way, they are struggling with a number of challenges that jeopardize their ability to fully focus on accessing lifesaving cancer care.
“I asked my brother when I returned home upon the news on compassionate leave from the Army where I was posted to CFB Gagetown, NB, ‘How do you need me to be here for you?’ He responded, that he needed me to care for Ashley, MacKinley, and the baby while he goes for treatment. He said they’re all going to really need me and that’s what he needed me to do. I told him that I wouldn’t ever leave him and promised I would always be there for them. I’ve got my brother.”
“In 2010, I ran 450 km solo in nine days from Dauphin to Winnipeg, to raise funds for Wounded Warriors and help educate Canadians on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and how best to support their soldiers returning from combat who may be battling with invisible psychological injuries,” said MacKenzie. “My Wounded Warrior Run was a huge success, having raised over $30k in donations.
“I intend to adopt the same approach to help raise medical funds to secure long-term safe, secure housing for families from Swan River, Minitonas, Kenville, and Bowsman to empower other families who may be faced with similar hardships as my brother to facilitate their access to lifesaving care in Winnipeg. My vision is to name this house after my brother.
“The MacLeod House will ensure community members have access to lifesaving cancer care while keeping the family together, including their pets, so they can focus on fighting for tomorrow with dignity and respect,” said MacKenzie. “Politically, we know that safe, secure and affordable housing is a significant critical issue in Canada, however, within the scope of universal healthcare, this prevents individuals and their families from actually accessing universal lifesaving cancer care. This is a human rights issue far beyond my brother. I intend to rally tons of attention, energy, support and ultimately make this vision a reality in my brother’s honour.
“Currently, this is in the brainstorming stages, but I intend to create and conduct a bike-by-relay called, Cycle for Cancer Care. This relay will start from the front door of my brother’s house in Minitonas and will end at the front doors of the Health Science Centre (HSC) in Winnipeg, to raise funds to help support my vision to secure The MacLeod House.
“My small relay team is composed of veterans and soldiers who are volunteering their time and their bodies to Cycle for Cancer Care, which will be attached to a non-profit that I intend to create called, Robert MacLeod - #Fighting4Tomorrow,” said MacKenzie. “All funds donated will be evenly divided between my brother, Robert MacLeod, to help support his medical expenses and the other funds will be used to put a down payment on a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home with a fenced yard for children and pets to play located close to the HSC.
“I’m still connecting with organizations within town to attempt to partner the house so that it will be privately maintained long into the future and available to our people when they need it most. The goal is to ensure no other family from our communities ever has to struggle to keep their family together while they fight for tomorrow.”
Along with MacKenzie’s fundraising efforts, there have been some local initiatives to help out Robert and his family during these unfortunate circumstances. There are a variety of ways for people in the Valley to help out.
“The Minitonas Motor Hotel is hosting a meat draw as a medical fundraiser for Robert MacLeod on June 22 from 7 to 9 p.m.,” said MacKenzie. “Tickets are 3 for $5. Special thank you to Misty who is organizing and hosting this event to help raise funds that will go directly to Robert’s family to aid with expenses as he fights AML.
“There is a GoFundMe page organized by Paige Berlinguette entitled, “Help the MacLeod family fight leukemia” and the Swan River Credit Union is set to receive donations directly into Robert’s chequing account. Eventually, Cycle for Cancer Care Relay will be another mechanism for additional support.
“I’m asking for any local businesses and clubs to approach me directly should they wish to partner with The MacLeod House, as I will need that residence to be managed long-term,” said MacKenzie. “Additionally, my team is looking for additional volunteers to cycle from Minitonas to Winnipeg, with the trip broken into four days.
“Also, I’m looking for an RV for those days with or without a driver, so that my small team has shelter while we Cycle for Cancer. I respect that not everyone can cycle and I invite motorbike owners to approach me if they would also like to be included in the event as this is accessible to everyone and anyone who wishes to volunteer their time. Please continue to pray for Robert and his family. This is going to be a very long gruelling haul; we appreciate everyone and anyone who has and will continue to lend their support.”



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