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Community rallies behind leukemia patient

Locals come together to raise money for family of Theo Lazaridis, 2

A few weeks ago, Theo Lazaridis was allowed outside.

The two-year-old spent the sunny day with his family, who had a picnic in Vancouver and played on a beach. It was amazing, Theo's mother Laura said. One of those beautiful moments.

"[Theo] was so happy to be outside and able to run around without IV lines."

Theo has just finished his second course of chemotherapy to battle an aggressive form of leukemia - acute myeloid leukemia. A few days before Christmas 2011, the Squamish family received the diagnoses. Ever since, they've called the B.C. Children's Hospital home.

To protect him from germs while he undergoes chemo, Theo is in isolation - confined to one room with a limit on visitors. In between his first bouts of treatments, doctors deemed him strong enough to venture outside. Laura is hoping the same will happen before Theo enters the next round of therapy.

Just a few weeks ago, the Lazardises received the news they were hoping for. Tests showed Theo was reacting positively to the treatment, Laura said, noting if it hadn't worked, Theo faced the prospect of a bone marrow transplant.

"It was the hardest time since Theo was diagnosed," Laura said in regard to waiting for the test results.

Theo still has a way to go before he can come home, she admitted. He has two more rounds of chemotherapy to complete. During the first treatment, Theo caught influenza A and Laura said she is constantly worried about infection while Theo's immune system is weakened.

"When he is doing well, I am doing well. When he not so good, I am not so good," she said.

On Sunday (March 4), Squamish residents are coming together for a fundraiser for the family. From noon until 4 p.m., Totem Hall will be packed with a bouncy castle, face painting, family games and a silent auction with enough prizes to temp everyone, said Lauren Fraser, a longtime friend of the Lazardises. Everything from helicopter skiing to tickets to see a Canucks game are up for grabs.

"There is something for the parents, something for the kids. This is all about family," she said. "We got a tonne of stuff."

Since Theo's treatments began, Laura - who worked at Coast Mountain Veterinary Hospital - has been at his side. Tasso, Theo's father, has slashed his work week down to four days to be with his son more, while Laura's mother looks after the couple's three-year-old daughter Eden at the Ronald McDonald house. Besides the lost income - while still paying the regular bills - the family has the additional costs of living out of a suitcase, Fraser noted.

The goal is to raise $12,000. So far the campaign sits at $11,455, but Fraser is determined to go beyond that target if possible. The Lazardises are an astonishing couple, she said, adding they are outdoor enthusiasts and a strong, adventurous family.

Choking back tears, Laura said she has been moved by how committed and kind people are. The staff at the Children's Hospital are incredible and the support from Squamish is unbelievable, she said.

"I don't know how we could have done it without them."

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