The smiling face of Naomi Lendvay is the latest addition to the Blades collectible cards deck as the young cancer-battling girl gets a hand up from the hockey team and MD Ambulance.
In June, Naomi, 6, was diagnosed with stage four Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer made up of cells that normally develop into skeletal muscles that is more common in children.
“It’s such a shock, you almost don’t react because you just take it one day at a time because you have no idea how to react,” her grandmother Claudette Levers said.
Since then, Naomi has undergone radiation and is undergoing chemotherapy. The treatment has left her body and immune system weak and she attends school when she is able.
But her grandparents said she remains strong at heart and quickly adapted to her new normal. Naomi injects her own medicine and cleans the port; she listens to her own heart and takes her blood pressure, and has even administered her own anesthesia, or as she calls it “sleeping medicine.”
“We had no idea how strong a little girl she was going to be and how she was going to handle this, and she handles it better than anyone in the family,” Levers said. “They could knock her down, but they can’t knock her out.”
As Naomi continues to fight the cancer, MD Ambulance is marking its 40th anniversary in Saskatoon. Troy Davies said they wanted to celebrate by giving to the community.
With the help of the Saskatoon Blades, the ambulance service designed custom jerseys for the players and paramedics. The jersey harks back to the 1968 Blades logo while mixing in the back of an ambulance on the reverse and heart rhythm design all around. The idea was to auction off jerseys at Tuesday’s Blades game and donate proceeds from the 50/50 draw to charity.
Then they heard about Naomi.
“Once we heard her story, it was a no-brainer for us,” Davies said. “Kids hit home for all our staff.”
Now all the money will go to Naomi’s family to help them stay at home and focus on their daughter’s treatment. Her grandparents were thrilled.
“It’s so needed. Not so much the money, but the awareness of childhood cancer, how unresearched and unsupported it is,” Levers said.
In Canada, childhood cancer is responsible for more deaths from one year through adolescence than any other disease, according to the Childhood Cancer Canada Foundation. Around 1,500 children are diagnosed every year, but thanks to therapy advancements, 70 per cent of children become long-term survivors. If she is well enough, Naomi is expected to drop the puck at Tuesday’s game.
“Her and her mother are discussing whether she’s going to wear her pink wig, blond wig, her toque or if she’s going to go bald. It’s her decision,” Levers said.
Anyone who attends will also receive the official Naomi hockey card which features stats such as how many needles she had received and how many blood transfusions and surgeries she has undergone.
Students in Naomi’s Grade 2 class will also be in attendance at the game.