Relay for Life: Langley families find support on the cancer ward

Scott Trapp and Baylee Warkman both grew up in Langley, both participated in the Langley Relay for Life as teenagers, and both headed off to college within a year of each other.

Now both are connected by their fight against a rare cancer that struck them both within weeks.

Warkman graduated from Walnut Grove Secondary in 2013, and Tapp graduated from Brookswood in 2012.

Despite growing up in the same town, neither had met until they found themselves in treatment at Surrey Memorial Hospital for rhabdomyosarcoma.

The rare cancer, normally seen in children between three and 12 when it turns up at all, had struck both, and they were diagnosed and headed into chemotherapy within days of one another.

When the Trapps began heading in to Surrey for Scott’s appointments, Lennie Trapp, Scott’s mother, asked nurses and their oncologist about support groups for Scott and the family.

Their doctor put them in touch with the Warkman family, and within a short time, in the fall of 2013, Scott and Baylee were meeting for coffee, followed by a meeting of their mothers.

“It’s awesome, she’s just like a little sister to me,” Scott said.

They each know what the other is going through, the challenges of treatment, and can share jokes about the foggy feeling of “chemo brain,” Scott said.

It’s amazing that there’s anyone at all in Langley going through treatment for the same condition, much less someone his own age, Scott said.

“The chances were slim to none,” he said.

Baylee’s family was also surprised at the time, and they quickly bonded with the Trapp family.

“It’s an amazing support group,” said Sydney Warkman, Baylee’s mother. “Your whole world gets turned upside down. There is no one who understands it better than someone going through it.”

Rhabdomyosarcoma is a rare cancer that normally attacks skeletal muscles, and can target the head and neck, arms and legs, and urinary or reproductive organs. Defeating it means treatments with both chemotherapy and radiation, possibly multiple times.

The survival rate is relatively good for the cancer, given quick treatment.

Both families banded together, doing some coordinating of driving and regularly meeting up.

“When you’re sick, it’s nice to have the support,” said Lennie.

“We can’t imagine going through all this stuff without having the Warkmans’ support,” Lennie added.

Getting well is a full time job for the young patients.

“It just takes so much, it drains everything out of you,” Tapp said of the treatments.

The families are making plans for the future, though. He’s looking forward to doing some backpacking, or maybe going to Hawaii.

“We’ll definitely have some parties between both of our families,” said Scott.

As Relay for Life came around again, both families joined together and decided to form their own team, the Rhabdo Rebels.

They started with a goal of raising $2,000.

The team of 15 is now closing in on $12,000, having raised their bar repeatedly.

The team is now the second-highest fundraising team in the entire Langley Realy, in its first year of existence. It has also never held a single fundraiser.

“We are just absolutely amazed every day by the wonderful support,” said Sydney.

The families really don’t have the time to devote to setting up pub nights or car washes while dealing with supporting their grown children through treatment.

“It’s like a full time job,” said Sydney.

That makes the financial haul more impressive.

“I never imagined raising that amount of money,” Scott said.

It’s the amazing support from both families, and their many co-workers and friends, that has allowed them to hit that high mark, he said.

In fact, they raised so much money, that they are allowed to designate that it goes towards research specifically for rhabdosarcoma.

Baylee has just recently been released from the hospital between bouts of radiation treatment, while Scott was in the hospital this week and hoping to head home soon.

Both of them are planning to be well enough to show up to support their team, and to take part in the survivor’s lap that kicks off the entire Relay.

“They’re in the midst of surviving, right now,” said Lennie.

It will also be Scott’s birthday on the day of Relay itself.

Both Baylee and Scott will wrap up their current rounds of treatment around the end of July or early August. Baylee is scheduled for another round of radiation in the fall. They’re both hoping that within a year or so they can head back to college, Scott to UBC where he’s studying engineering, and Baylee to Ryerson University in Toronto, where she’s studying fashion design.

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