Keera opens birthday presents on her third birthday when the family held a big celebration to also thank everyone who was helping her in her fight.

Keera opens birthday presents on her third birthday when the family held a big celebration to also thank everyone who was helping her in her fight.

Family comforted as child fought fatal illness

The community that often surrounds those most in need of love and caring has changed in ways making the world smaller, and better.

The community that often surrounds those most in need of love and caring has changed in ways making the world smaller, and better.

It’s a community of people who can physically hug others close, but today it’s also a community that offers and sends support through the World Wide Web, the Internet.

For one Red Deer family, support from family and friends as well as that online connection is helping them get through the loss of a child.

Up until the very end, those closest to Keera St. Laurent took turns holding the four-year-old in their arms. And they shared her unfolding story online where hundreds of photos and supportive comments have been posted.

Sadly, last Saturday, less than a day after a caring community held a moving candlelight vigil for her and her family outside her window at Red Deer Regional Hospital, young Keera passed away. Her battle with cancer was over, and with it went the tremendous pain she suffered through.

Keera, nicknamed Girlie, is survived by her parents Jessi and Darrell St. Laurent, her brother Devin, 6, a large extended family and many friends.

“People are making fancy little pictures and posting (them), uplifting prayers and thoughts, even the support of people we don’t know personally has been amazing, and of course close friends, and distant friends who have become close. People have done so much for us,” Jessi, 29, said Monday.

“You could just feel the love pouring out of everybody. It was a very incredible experience,” she said of the vigil that was held Friday evening.

“There again, people who couldn’t attend were on the (Hugs for Keera Facebook) page putting their candles that they had lit at the same time … there was a lady in England who stayed up, it was 2 o’clock her time .. and lit a candle. That candlelight vigil was huge. It was just amazing,” Jessi said.

Keera’s trouble began just after she turned two, said her grandmother, Cora Simpson.

Just before Christmas in 2013, Keera seemed to get very tired, did not want to walk and just wanted to be held.

In February 2014, following an MRI in Calgary, doctors discovered a tumour on her brain, which had spread to her spine. It was a type of aggressive cancer found mainly in children — known as a supratentorial primitive neuroectodermal tumour. The family was told they were in for an uphill battle and chances weren’t good for Keera, Cora said.

Doctors could not operate because the tumour was too small. So Keera underwent chemo-dialysis in Calgary, and then radiation.

“She did beat it for awhile,” said Cora.

“(Keera) was famous for saying, ‘I’m gonna kick cancer’s ass. And when it came back again she still said that.”

This past September, a follow-up regular MRI showed the cancer had returned.

At this point, said Cora, Keera’s parents had to choose between more treatment in Calgary for their daughter, but that she probably wouldn’t make it to January.

They chose not to continue with the treatment, Cora said.

“(Keera) wanted to be at home and Jessi said, ‘No, if you can’t fix it, we’re not going to prolong the inevitable and have her miserable. She might live an extra three months but it would be three months away from everybody.’”

“That was the decision,” said Cora.

Keera’s parents tried other things, such as an organic diet and herbs, Cora said. “My daughter and son-in-law moved heaven and earth to try everything and it just didn’t work. The tumour just continued to grow.”

At the end of October, the Make A Wish Foundation sent Keera, her brother and parents to Disney World in Florida. Originally the plan was to send them in December, but Keera was getting sicker.

She was able to enjoy some of what Disney World had to offer. “She got to party with the princesses and had a princess makeover,” and went on some of the rides.

A few days after the family returned in early November, her parents took Keera to Red Deer Regional Hospital where she was placed in pallative care.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Cora said about the pain Keera was in then. In the end, Keera was put into a medically induced coma to save her from that pain.

“We had been taking turns cradling her in our arms that last couple of days, and she seemed to be so much better in somebody’s arms. She just seemed to be peaceful.”

“We all had a chance to say goodbye. We all told her how much we loved her. It was time.”

“We would say, ‘Go fly with the angels darling, you’re tired,’” Cora said.

“She was the happiest most loving little girl I’ve ever seen. She didn’t know a stranger. She had a smile with a dimple that just lit up a room. She had twinkly blue eyes, curly hair.”

“She loved dolls and tea parties, princesses, her favourite song was Barbie by Aqua … she would sing that song and dance.”

The day Keera died happened to also be Cora’s 55th birthday.

“My birthday wish was that Keera would simply pass, to get her out of her agony. That’s a terrible thing for any grandmother to say but to watch her suffer like that was the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

To other families who have a child with cancer, Cora says: “Love your child as long as you’ve got them. Never give up hope. Fight, fight, fight. And there’s organizations and people out there that support you, that you don’t even know exist.”

At 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Keera passed away peacefully in the arms of her great grandmother, Charlene Benson.

Keera’s funeral is this Saturday, 11 a.m. at Parkland Funeral Home. Instead of flowers, the family is asking donations be made directly to Help Families Handle Cancer or to the Make A Wish Foundation.

Jessi said she will always remember her daughter as a princess. “She loved everybody and everybody always loved her. She was always beautiful and she always found the beauty in everything.”

“We’re still trying to figure out how to cope with it. It’s nothing anybody should ever experience in a life,” Jessi said.

“We greatly appreciate everything and we couldn’t have, and wouldn’t be able to do this, without the support.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Erika Fetterly, owner of EFP Studios, recently launched the Let Them Have A Voice campaign. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta photographer’s campaign aims to give youths a voice

An Innisfail photographer is giving a platform to young central Albertans so… Continue reading

Chopped Canada-winning chef Pete Sok is trying to focus on the future as he reopens Boulevard Restaurant and Lounge in the Holiday Inn on Gasoline Alley during the pandemic. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer’s celebrity chef looks past the pandemic with new restaurant opportunity

Pete Sok is reopening Boulevard Restaurant — and betting on the future

The Red Deer Rebels hosted the Medicine Hat Tigers in the first game of the shortened 2020-21 season on Friday. The two teams faced off again in Medicine Hat Saturday (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Red Deer Rebels fall to Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday

Tigers 7 Rebels 2 The Red Deer Rebels have lost two straight… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is condemning alleged vandalism at the… Continue reading

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Machin waits to appear at the Standing Committee on Finance on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 1, 2016. Executives who engage in so-called "vaccine tourism" show both an ethical disregard for those less fortunate and a surprising lack of business acumen, experts argue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine tourism is both unethical and bad for business, experts say

Executives who engage in so-called “vaccine tourism” show both an ethical disregard… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Jesse Puljujarvi (13) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Justin Holl (3) battle in front as goalie Jack Campbell (36) makes the save during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, February 27, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
No Matthews, no problem: Minus NHL goal leader, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 4-0

Leafs 4 Oilers 0 EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs knew even with… Continue reading

The Pornhub website is shown on a computer screen in Toronto on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Pornhub policies reveal legal gaps and lack of enforcement around exploitive videos

OTTAWA — Serena Fleites was in seventh grade when a sexually explicit… Continue reading

Sean Hoskin stands on a neighbourhood street in Halifax on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Hoskin was diagnosed with COVID-19 almost a year ago with symptoms that still persist. Some provinces have established programs to deal with long-term sufferers but Atlantic Canada, with relatively low numbers of patients, has yet to provide a resource to assist them. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
On East Coast, exhausted COVID-19 ‘long haulers’ hope specialized clinics will emerge

HALIFAX — On evenings when Sean Hoskin collapses into bed, heart pounding… Continue reading

Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray (30) stands in his crease as Calgary Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane (88), left to right, defenceman Rasmus Andersson (4), Matthew Tkachuk (19), Mikael Backlund (11) and Mark Giordano (5) celebrate a goal during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Calgary Flames beat Ottawa 6-3 to end Senators’ three-game win streak

Flames 6 Senators 3 OTTAWA — The Calgary Flames used a balanced… Continue reading

Crosses are displayed in memory of the elderly who died from COVID-19 at the Camilla Care Community facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on November 19, 2020. The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection is likely to be much higher than recorded because of death certificates don't always list the virus as the cause of a fatality, experts say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Death certificates don’t accurately reflect the toll of the pandemic, experts say

The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough to cover the average pinky nail but is made up of more than 280 components and requires at least three manufacturing plants to produce. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
From science to syringe: COVID-19 vaccines are miracles of science and supply chains

OTTAWA — A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough… Continue reading

Most Read