Joel Fast is surrounded by, from left, Rachel Navaneelan, his father David, Gillian Oxley-Harper, his mother Cheryl, Nicole Landriault, Jody Hum and Kim Lauzon.
CORNWALL, Ontario - When Cheryl and David Fast travelled to CHEO back in March 2010 to get some answers as to why their young son Joel was experiencing headaches they were hoping to get some answers.
But those answers were something no parent would ever want to hear.
After weeks of heachaches and nausea four-year-old Joel was diagnosed with a brain tumour that was becoming so large that it had completely cut off the flow of cerebral fluid in his brain.
At the time doctors marveled that he wasn't showing even more symptoms of being a very sick little boy.
"They could actually see the pressure from the fluid in his eyes," said Cheryl.
What followed was an odyssey of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and a metric ton of post-operative complications.
Joel, thank god, is cancer-free today. But the removal of his brain tumour has resulted in him being diagnosed as developmentally-disabled.
He has difficulty articulating speech, his gait is not as strong as it should be and much of his development seems to be moving in slow motion.
As a result, when he plays or interacts with other children, he can quickly fall behind.
Much of that, though, will change this summer.
Through a huge donation buy Rachel's Kids' 'Small Moments of Joy' – a new initiative created just this year - Joel and his family are getting a pool in just a few weeks.
Why a pool? Cheryl calls it the great equalizer. When Joel and his siblings or friends are in the pool, nearly everyone moves at the same speed. Joel can keep up with almost everyone - and looks like the happy eight-year-old he should be.
"The reason he loves swimming so much is it levels the playing field," said Cheryl. "And it's kind of an enclosed space. So they can't get too far away from him."
Rachel Navaneelan, founder and Chair of the Cornwall based Rachel’s Kids Foundation says “ It’s all about making a difference in the life of a child, one day at a time.”
"With the Small Moments of Joy program, our goal is to aid in the recovery process by providing a positive and happy “moment” for the child and his or her family, but with a focus on the young person," she said.
The pool is expected to be installed in June, which will leave Joel and his five siblings - Elijah, Taliah, Joshua, Hannah and Samuel - with plenty of things to do this summer.