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Birthday girl needs a miracle: Kelowna child prepares for chemo

Starla celebrated her fourth birthday at B.C. Children’s Hopsital
Starla Szarek celebrated her fourth birthday at B.C. Children’s Hospital on Feb. 12 as she prepares for chemotherapy treatments to begin this week. (Contributed)

Happy birthday Starla Szarek!

The little girl from Kelowna turns four today (Sunday, Feb. 12) and is celebrating from her room at B.C. Children’s Hospital.

Starla’s mother Madison says her daughter starts chemotherapy this week after a recent cancer diagnosis.

“Everything started many months ago with clumsiness being my daughter’s first symptom to be followed by her throwing up every morning and occasionally complaining about feeling sick and dizzy, eventually losing the ability to walk and move around without constantly falling down and bumping into things.”

At first it seemed like she was just a toddler lacking coordination, but in the following weeks Starla’s condition continued to worsen.

“I made an appointment with my family doctor and spoke to her on January 23. She sent us to emergency at Kelowna General Hospital where my daughter was almost diagnosed with migraines.”

After a CT scan it was found the little girl had a large mass on the back of her brain and the single mother and her daughter were flown for emergency surgery at B.C. Children’s Hospital.

“I was super shocked to hear the news. My mom and I were so sure the whole hospital visit would just have resulted in us getting some medicine and going home. We had no idea my daughter had something so serious going on inside her body and we feel horrible knowing how long she had been dealing with this without anyone knowing.”

Starla had surgery on Jan. 26 to remove the majority of the tumor, however, over the next seven to nine months she will require chemotherapy treatments with only a 50 per cent success rate of curing the disease.

“It’s hard accepting our new reality. I feel like I’m living someone else’s life. I’ve always heard about kids with cancer, but I never imagined my daughter would be one of them.”

Starla had surgery last week to put in a central line for her chemotherapy treatments, a process that will cause nausea, hair loss, constipation, and several other side effects.

The success of treatment is lessened as Starla is unable to go through radiation therapy at the same time.

“On the bright side, we were able to get her onto a clinical trial so that should help.”

Starla’s treatment will all take place in Vancouver, having her single mom and her grandmother by her side.

To help with travel, food, and accommodations through the next several months, Madison launched a GoFundMe page and has raised over $15,000 as of Feb. 12.

“Before all this happened I was a stay-at-home mom working on my GED, but since my mom can’t work right now we’re struggling financially because she’s not getting that income… Right now we’re pretty tight.”

With funds still pouring in, Madison says she couldn’t be more thankful. “I actually didn’t want to start a GoFundMe. I didn’t think it would do well, but man was I wrong.”

Madison asks those who don’t have the financial means to support them for prayers and to help spread the fundraiser page.

“She deserves to be a kid again more than anything.”

Madison says the hospital is decorated to celebrate her daughter’s fourth birthday and she has lots of presents to open.

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Brittany Webster

About the Author: Brittany Webster

I am a video journalist based in Kelowna and capturing life in the Okanagan
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