‘I find people amazing’: Child’s cancer diagnosis brings Toronto community together

Ten-year-old Hailey Conroy sits in her East York living room on Friday morning singing the lyrics to Passenger’s Let Her Go.

“Well you only need the light when it’s burning low. Only miss the sun when it starts to snow. Only know you love her when you let her go,” she sings, as her mother weeps silently into her hands.

“The end of October she had a bone marrow biopsy which revealed that she had Leukemia,” Hailey’s mother, Patricia Baranyai, told Global News.

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“It’s been the most difficult thing. I’ve never known anything more difficult.”

Hailey had a few unexplained falls last spring and doctors eventually made the diagnosis. While the prognosis is good, the road to healing for Hailey will be a long one.

“These bad cells are eating at your bones and it makes them more fragile,” Hailey explained.

Kevin Conroy, Hailey’s dad, said she has been a trooper, having to face many fears.

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As the family sits on the couch together, Hailey snuggles up to her father and whispers in his ear, “I don’t want to go,” referring to the hospital. She spends up to four days there every week for treatment.

“I know. We got to go to the hospital Monday morning,” Conroy whispered back.

Conroy knows the drill well because he too is sick. He was diagnosed a year ago with an allergy to a fungus called Aspergillus, which is virtually everywhere. It means he has a hard time breathing and has stopped working as a result.

“It’s a bit of a pain,” Conroy said matter-of-factly.

“It’s had quite an impact, just trying to survive. There are an awful lot of added costs with hospital trips.”

To say that times have been tough at the Conroy home would be an understatement. It’s taken a toll on the family of four emotionally, and financially.

Baranyai has drawers and drawers filled with supplies, which currently sit untouched, from the jewelry business she has run for the last 27 years. She said she has given up 90 per cent of her clients “because it’s too stressful,” and because Hailey needs her mom.

But there has been support for the family.

“It brings a tear to my eye,” Conroy said.

Family friend Alexandra Etinger said she has been going to some appointments with Hailey and Baranyai and staff at the Gledhill Junior Public School have been organizing fundraisers to help Hailey and her family as the deal with the cost of her cancer.

“It’s been beautiful to see so many people coming out from the community, some people who don’t even know Hailey. But they want to help out — it’s awesome,” music teacher Heather Bailey explained as tears filled her eyes.

And Hailey’s classroom teacher David Barron has visited the family, even on Christmas Eve, to show his support and drop off gifts.

“Over the holidays, one of the nicest things for me was actually the true meaning of Christmas. I went over there with presents … the community support has just been amazing,” he said.

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Barron, and many others, have brought meals to the Conroy home.

“And there’s more to come,” he said.

None of this has gone unnoticed by Hailey or her parents.

“I find people amazing,” Conroy said.

“It’s really an eye opener in terms of what the potential is in people’s hearts,” Baranyai said

Hailey just finished month three of a two-and-a-half year treatment plan, and she has been responding well so far.

The road to healing may be a long one for the songbird, lovingly referred to by family as “Hailey-bird,” so a GoFundMe page has been set up to help cover some of the costs.

“Please help me care for Hailey in the way that she most deserves and please know that when the sun shines a little brighter, we will pay forward our blessings by raising money for the Hospital for Sick Children and other families in need,” the family said on the page.

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