My name is Ronnie Martin. I was diagnosed with childhood cancer when I was six years old. Cancer has a way of flipping your life upside down, especially if you have to travel to receive treatment. I spent much of my first grade year in Seattle, WA where I had surgery and chemotherapy. When you’re a small child going through this, it sure is scary, but this whole ordeal impacted my parents and sister 10 times more. They too have to stop their own lives and watch someone they love go through one of the most painful times of their lives.
The silver lining to this story is that we had wonderful family in Seattle who let us stay with them for my initial treatment, but also all the trips back for check-ups. It was one major detail my parents didn’t have to think about. They could focus on helping their little girl beat this thing.
Now I’m 29 years old, and ironically, live in Seattle. I’m a healthy, happy person who looks back on that time with mixed feelings. My poor family still has a hard time talking about it. But me? I think it changed me for the better. Losing your hair, having scars, and fighting for your life changes you. It makes you more grateful for your time on this earth and more compassionate to those around you. So it’s sort of crazy to say, but there’s a very small piece of me that’s thankful for the perspective it gave me. Life has a way of teaching you things like that, doesn’t it?
From Ronnie’s mother: For families that have to stay away from home during care and treatment—it is a true hardship. Rural Montanan’s are all too aware of traveling long distances for healthcare. Initially, travel to large medical centers like Seattle (which has housing) is necessary and then, patients and families often come back to places like Great Falls to finish treatment and follow up. if people don’t have families to stay with, they are dependent on housing like the Legacy Housing that Great Falls Clinic is building.
Great Falls Clinic Legacy Foundation housing isn’t home but it is close. One thing my sister said when she was trying to cope with a child with cancer—I just wanted my life back—I wanted to be a normal family again.