Eight-year-old Norm Blacksmith has been through what amounts to a lifetime of ailments. He underwent a liver transplant in September 2002 to overcome being born with liver sclerosis. Then, in January of this year, doctors discovered a tumor riddled with lymphoma near his rectum. They removed most of it, but approximately two centimetres were left.
On February 8, he started chemotherapy and will have to go through it for at least six months before doctors can give a proper diagnosis. Norm is currently being housed in the cancer ward at Sainte-Justine’s Hospital in Montreal.
“We found out just after Christmas on December 28,” said his mother Sarah. “He started having stomach pains so we took him to the clinic and they sent us home. The pain stopped, then after the New Year we took him again and they gave him morphine and he still had pain. So they decided to send him to Montreal. He was flown in the first week of January and admitted to Sainte-Justine. They did the tests and found a tumor near his rectum.”
He was operated on three days later, but they didn’t get the entire tumor. “They told us one of the risks involved with that transplant was cancer,” said his mother. “It was very devastating when the doctor informed us. We cried when we found out. Norm was in the room and he asked why but I couldn’t say anything. It was hard.”
Despite the tragic news, Norm’s parents Sarah and her husband Ivan are trying to do what’s right for the whole family. “Last time we were really stressed and had difficulties ourselves like anxiety attacks,” she said. “This time we have to take care of ourselves too in order to take care of him.”
The boy’s liver sclerosis, according to his mom, had nothing to do with alcohol because they didn’t drink. She thinks the condition is more genetic, although there isn’t a family history of it that she is aware of.
Norm, who people affectionately called Normsh, still faces the danger of liver failure during his chemo treatments.
The Blacksmiths went home with Norm for a weekend in late January to attend a supper held at the Kanio Kashee lodge in his honour. All of Norm’s teammates on his Novice ‘A’ Waskaganish Future Wings hockey club were there. The Blacksmiths were honoured when they found out that night that his teammates had gone out with sponsor sheets and raised over $3,000 for their hockey buddy.
Norm used to play outside their house every evening with other neighborhood kids, said Sarah. “Someone told me that they miss Norm being there so they don’t play there anymore.”
The Waskaganish Youth Council also hosted a radio-a-thon for Norm. Each member gave $50 from their own pocket, totaling $450. Altogether, they raised over $10,000 with tremendous support from the community. The talk show was called Fulfilling Norm’s Dream.
His dream is to go to Disney World.
“Norm is very anxious to go,” Sarah told the Nation at Sainte-Justine’s. “He really wants to go see Mickey Mouse.”
Something else that keeps him going is his best buddy Gerald Spencer.
“He has one special friend named Jerrold Spencer,” Sarah said. “When we went home we called Jerrold over and from 10 in the evening until the next night they were glued together. They went to the clinic together and even went to the church and Jerrold stayed with Norm on the altar when they held a prayer for him.”
Through it all, the Blacksmiths say that they could not have done it without their community’s support.
“There are no words to express the amount of support we got from Waskaganish,” she said. “Knowing that the whole community is standing with us makes it seem that our pain is being carried by them as well. It kind of lightens your burden, the way you feel. It’s really tremendous what they’re doing and we’re really grateful for it.”
The Blacksmith family wishes to express its gratitude to Gertie Murdoch, Flora Weistche, Cathy Stevens, Rita J. Macleod, Lucy Trapper, Doris and Jack Diamond, Shirley C. Moar, Norm’s hockey teammates, the Waskaganish Youth Council and the community for all their thoughts and prayers.