Gay Dad Life

Remission Possible: Malaki’s Recovery from Leukemia

In December 2014 Gays With Kids published the story of 4-year-old Malaki and his dads Doug and Mike from Toronto. At the time Malaki was being treated for leukemia. How are things going with Malaki today? Doug answered our questions.

"Malaki finished his three and a half years of chemotherapy in February. It’s been so great to not have the fear of leukemia hanging over our heads, to not give him pills in the middle of the night or take him to the hospital for injections. We were lucky that during his last couple of years of treatment the side effects were minimal.  He could go to kindergarten and, generally, live a pretty normal life. In fact, finishing his treatment meant that we would no longer have regular visits to the hospital, where he had lots of friends.

"Our life is still hectic. Malaki is a very active and strong boy. He just turned 6 and is starting first grade this fall. He has always been athletic and as he’s gotten older he’s taken up even more sports. Even during the final year of chemo therapy he took up hockey. This spring he started skateboarding, which is his new favorite thing to do.

“There is no question that having to be there every single day for Malaki’s treatment and to watch for any signs of fever or illness made us all bond. When most kids get a flu or a fever, parents might be concerned and keep their kids home or maybe see their family doctors. But for us, a fever meant a rush to the Emergency Room because of his weak immune system. It is so great now that we don’t have to have this level of vigilance and we can get back to a more normal way of life.

"One thing that happened through all this was that we became more involved in our church. We weren’t particularly religious people before, but something about the community that it provided and the messages of hope and healing really resonated with us. So all three of us are now regulars at Metropolitan Community Church Toronto. Mike volunteers in the Sunday school, which Malaki loves.

Malaki between his dads Michael (l) and Doug

"We pretty much fell in love with Malaki within weeks of his arrival to us in the summer of 2012 through the adoption process.  The bonds were formed by laughter and tears, little achievements that every parent sees, like hitting a ball, saying new words, and gaining a better understanding of the world around him.  So by the time the cancer hit, we were already his dads in our minds and there was no question that we would do whatever we had to do to ensure he got through this diagnosis and treatment.

"There always is the fear of relapse in the back of our minds. A portion of children who finish treatment for leukemia relapse within the first couple of years after treatment ends, but we try not to think about it and focus on the day to day stuff.

"Years of discussion, including with gay friends who already have kids and “Daddies and Papas 2B” course offered through the 519 [the LGBTQ Centre in Toronto] and Sherbourne Health Centre made us realize we could be parents.  But we only really “got it” once we became parents.  Through this journey with leukemia we have all continually surprised ourselves with how much we can manage.

"Malaki was so young that he didn’t fully appreciate the gravity of his illness.  That was a blessing.  He was able to teach us parents how to live in the moment, appreciate what we have now, laugh at the silliness and smile at daily joys.

“Malaki still does karate and has a yellow stripe on his white belt!"

"And one thing we are now looking forward to is granting Malaki’s wish. As a child who has experienced a potentially terminal disease, he is eligible for some kind of wish fulfillment organized by the Children’s Wish Foundation. We aren’t quite sure what he wants yet, but probably a trip somewhere to do something very athletic, like ninja warrior fighting.”

Editor’s note: Doug’s answers have been edited for clarity. You can read our original story about this family here.

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