When a child loses her beloved grandfather to cancer, she finds a way to honour him and help others on a very special day of the year; his birthday
Zoe Baker, 14, is mature beyond her years. The Harbour Mille teen says she knew she wanted to help the second she found out her pop, Leslie Baker, had cancer.
Ways to Help Pop
‘‘I have been thinking about cancer and ways to help ever since pop was diagnosed because I knew if he needed to go for treatment he would lose his hair so I wanted to be like him so he wouldn’t feel left out,” she shares.
But her grandfather’s cancer progressed so fast, the family had no treatment options beyond comfort care.
Zoe’s pop was 67-years-old when he died from small cell lung cancer. From the time he was put in the hospital to the time he died, only 23 days passed.
Zoe’s mom, Kyla Baker says it was a shock to everyone.
“I don’t know how I told Zoe. I don’t even remember. I’m the one who brought dad to the hospital. The week before, all we were told was he had a pulled muscle and a week later he was so sick he lost a good 30 pounds over a few days. I said, ‘dad, there’s more wrong with you than a pulled muscle!’ I took him up to the hospital the day Zoe started her first day of school that fall, and he never came home anymore.”
Zoe says, even though her pop never lost his hair, shaving hers to help others has long been on her mind. “I really wanted to do it, and pop’s birthday was coming on (July 24) so mom said if I really wanted to do it I could, and maybe try and raise some money too for cancer research.”
‘Like My Best Friend’
The goal was $500. That was achieved in three days. As of press time, the amount raised was $1,400.
Zoe’s mom says she’s not surprised. “Dad knew a lot of people and dad was such a nice person. He had so many friends and everyone wanted to help,” she says.
Zoe agrees. “Pop, he was more like a dad to me. When mom was sick a few years ago and was in the hospital, I stayed with him for a few weeks. He used to take me wherever he went. I just hung out with him. He was like my best friend.”
Zoe says her pop was also really funny, even making jokes as he lay in the hospital dying. “He never wanted us to be upset, so he’d joke and make me laugh.”
Kyla shares that her father spent more time comforting others than they did comforting and caring for him.
“It took a little while to know what kind of cancer he had, and in the meantime I read everything I could on all kinds of cancers to be ready when we got the news. When he got his results we went in this room when they told us what it was and when they said what it was I knew there was nothing they could do and I started to cry. I remember dad held my hand and he said, ‘it’s OK Kyla. I’m going to be alright.’ I kept looking at him and said, ‘but you’re not dad. You are going to die.’ And he was fine with that. He didn’t want us to be sad.”
Fighting Cancer For Pop
Kyla jokes that it’s fitting that her daughter Zoe is the one raising money for cancer research in memory of her grandfather. “Zoe is saucy like her grandfather. And certain foods she loves to eat he loved, and she’s messy like him.”
Zoe, whose hair was down her back, isn’t just raising money, she’s also giving her hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, a charity that donates real-hair wigs to women fighting cancer.
When asked if she will miss her long hair, she says no. “I’m good. I can shave it. I don’t care.”
Kyla says she feels Zoe is old enough to make her own hair decisions, though she admits she was worried how her daughter would feel when she started school again in the fall. Zoe says there’s no worries there.
“Everyone in my school (Fortune Bay Academy) is really close. There’s only seven in my class and around 80 in my school, so everyone is close to one another and we are all best friends and we do everything together,” she says.
On her grandfather, Zoe says she misses him each and every day.
“The hardest about having him gone is that I used to see him everyday and I used to see him walking around. I find I’m always looking out the window and I expect to see him, but I’m not seeing him. That’s hard. I miss him.”
To provide support or donate, contact Kyla Baker at [email protected]