A New Brunswick mother is using social media to document and share her four-year-old daughter’s battle with brain cancer.
Elizabeth Paul, 26, from the Maliseet community of Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick, has been posting photos and videos online of her daughter, Zamirra, ever since she and her husband, Na-pauset Paul, 36, learned in March their daughter had several tumours in her brain and some forming in her spine.
“When I found this out, I decided to go public with my community via Facebook, any kind of media network like Twitter, Instagram,” Paul said in a phone interview from Toronto.
“I felt the need to have to share her story and tell her diagnosis to everyone. I didn’t think twice to keep it private,” Paul said.
“I want people to be aware of brain tumours (and) childhood cancer,” she said.
Zamirra Paul was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. She was transferred to the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, N.S. in March where she received the first part of her chemotherapy treatment over a three month period.
Since June, Zamirra has been in Toronto receiving more intensive chemotherapy treatment at The Hospital for Sick Children. Paul and her husband have been staying at Ronald McDonald House so they can be with their daughter while she is receiving treatment.
Paul’s family has been taking care of her four other children in Tobique while she and her husband are in Toronto with Zamirra. Paul took a leave of absence from her job as a cashier at a corner store in order to remain by her daughter’s side.
Everyday, Paul says tries to post a photo or video of Zamirra on her personal Facebook wall or on her YouTube channel. By taking raw and honest photos and videos of her daughter while she is in the hospital, Paul says she is trying to capture the reality of a small child fighting a life-threatening illness.
“I’ll take pictures of (Zamirra) in her worst days,” Paul said. “I do it because it’s real. This is now her life,” she added.
Paul’s photo and videos of Zamirra’s ongoing battle with cancer have prompted her own community to hold fundraisers to help the family with paying bills while she and her husband to remain with their daughter.
People react to photos, video by fundraising, sending mail to Zamirra
Paul’s cousin in Tobique, Jeanette Bear, has set up a public group on Facebook, Online Auction for Zamirra’cle, to hold an online auction of donated items as a way to raise money. The first auction raised nearly $6,000 for the Pauls.
The same Facebook group is currently holding another online auction to raise more money for Zamirra’s family.
A crowdfunding campaign has also been set up on the website, Go Fund Me, to raise money for the Pauls. So far, more than $9,000 has been raised.
A community benefit dance is being held in Perth, N.B. on July 30 to raise money for the family.
“The fundraising has been overwhelming in a positive way,” Paul said. “We’ve had a lot of people be very generous, very caring and understanding of the situation and want to help in every way possible,” she said.
Paul’s posts to Facebook and YouTube have also caught the attention of strangers worldwide. Zamirra receives mail from friends and strangers and she has been tagged in videos other children have made for her to cheer her up and root for her to win her battle with cancer.
“She loves it. It just lights this flame inside of her spirit to help her to fight and keep pushing,” Paul said. “It’s been really moving.”
Meanwhile, Paul says Zamirra is scheduled to return to the IWK Health Centre in September to begin radiation therapy. According to Paul, her daughter’s tumours have shrunk since first beginning chemotherapy.
According to Paul, the Children’s Wish Foundation has approved Zamirra’s wish to have her backyard in Tobique transformed into her own playground. Paul says Zamirra will be able to spend a couple of hours in her playground before she begins the next round of treatment.
“I just feel that Zamirra, whether or not she turns out to be the walking miracle that I’m praying for her to be, I know that she’s still being a miracle for other people because she’s shifting people’s lives,” Paul said.
“People who have never prayed a day in their whole entire lives are now continuing to pray (for Zamirra),” she said.
“She has awakened something inside of people and that’s what I wanted for her. I want her to connect with people as much as I have always connected with people.”