Little Madison Primeau and her father Denis at their Cornwall home.
CORNWALL, Ontario - Denis Primeau and his wife Shelley had to start all over again with their daughter Madison, and they wouldn't have it any other way because the alternative is too devastating to consider.
The beautiful bright-eyed Cornwall girl has literally had her life reset following a brain cancer diagnosis that required surgery, untold treatments and meant she had to learn to walk, talk and (most importantly) be a little girl all over again.
A year ago the community was rallying around the Primeau family, holding fundraisers and sending prayers of support, because the future was anything but a guarantee.
But today Madison is bopping around her Poirier Avenue home, playing with her dog Gilmour, looking forward to Christmas and has become every bit the daughter Denis and Shelley could have hoped for.
Madison is emphatic when she tells you Gilmour weighs exactly 80 pounds, and she attends Ecole Ste-Lucie in Grade 3.
Her father is just as empathic when he recounts the year the family has just endured.
"She’s had to learn to read and write from scratch again," he said. "After surgery she was a good four months where we had to spoon feed her again just like a baby. She couldn’t walk, she couldn’t talk.
"It took five months just to get her out of the wheelchair."
The good news, though, is that Madison is in remission. Following brain surgery in July, 2012 and a host of chemo therapy and radiation sessions, doctors are saying they have been unable to detect any more cancer in her body.
But no one is ready to suggest Madison is cancer-free just yet. And now a lengthy waiting game begins as she returns to CHEO every three months for regular MRIs and spinal fluid checks to screen for cancer.
"The one thing I’ve learned about with the doctors, a lot of times the human aspect is taken out of it," said Denis. "They just give you the worst-case scenario, which they pretty much have to…it’s like you’re talking to their lawyers.
"It took a lot of time to realize it’s up to the patient to really determine how everything is going to turn out, as far as attitude wise.”
Based on Madison's ability to bounce from her father's lap to a nearby couch and then run to the back door to greet her dog, it seems she is doing something right.
Denis said the outreach his family received throughout the ordeal, which is hardly over, has been tremendous.
"I was just blown away by the support from everyone," he said, referring to spaghetti dinners and school fundraisers that helped collect money for the family.
The next big hurdle on the horizon for Madison will be the removal of a feeding tube-type device she has in her stomach that her parents use every night to provide her with nourishment.
The device, which Denis refers to as her "gas cap" will be removed when his daughter begins taking in more solid foods.
Until then he said the family is living for the moment.
"I'm just taking it one day at a time."
Maybe even one hour at a time, if the last year or so has taught his family anything.