'Masquer aid' gala will hear stories from a young cancer survivor

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Paige Dillabough, and part of the courage bead necklace she has created.

CORNWALL, Ontario - Paige Dillabough's battle with cancer carries with it plenty of scars. The tumour that ravaged her brain as a young girl has left her with physical disabilities that illustrate the difficulty some young patients endure.

But it's a colourful beaded necklace that draws the biggest gasps.

The necklace would stretch around an entire high school gymnasium if laid out end-to-end. She was diagnosed with brain cancer when she was eight, and Paige would add a single bead to the necklace every time she had a contact with a health-care professional associated with her cancer.

Every time blood was drawn, she stayed overnight in the hospital or she underwent treatment, a bead went on the necklace.

Today when she travels with family to different speaking engagements they leave half the necklace at home - it would be much too heavy, otherwise.

Paige, 19, will be the guest of honour at the Masquer Aid gala Jan. 31 which benefits Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Support Programs in Cornwall.

"I just do things differently," Paige said in an interview while describing how her life has changed since surviving cancer. She had to learn to speak, walk and read all over again following brain cancer treatments.

But she has parlayed that experience into a youthful exuberance that isn't lost on the basketball and volleyball teams at Renfrew Collegiate Institute where she attends high school.

"When it comes to sports, I love to help out," she said.

Paige will be telling her bead story, and many others as the guest speaker at the ball, which will highlight the trials of families grappling with a childhood cancer diagnosis.

Often costs can explode if the cancer patient happens to be a child.

Cathy Heenan, one of the organizers of the 'Masquer Aid' gala, said in an earlier interview despite Canada's universal health-care plan, costs continue to add up.

"Research shows that the expenses of having a child with cancer can take up one-third of a family's after taxes income," she said, adding after a patient has successfully beaten cancer, their lives continue to be affected. "They still have to travel for follow-up appointments."

As many as 200 people are expected for the Masquer Aid gala.

Candlelighters helps families offset the costs of battling cancer.

"When it comes right down to it they will even help with mortgage payments," she said. "Because if a child has cancer, one of those parents will have to quit their job."

For more information on the event, send an e-mail to: masqueraid.ball.kindlelife@gmail.com or check out their Facebook page here.

Geographic location: CORNWALL, Ontario

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