2 Labrador teens bond over cancer diagnosis

A couple of teenagers from Labrador have developed a special relationship after both of them were diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
From left, Mike Ash, Kayla Ash, CBC's Caroline Hillier, Christina Dingwall, and Karl Dingwall. The two teenagers are both from Happy Valley-Goose Bay and have been diagnosed with the same form of cancer. (Christine Morgan, Ronald McDonald House)

A couple of teenagers from Labrador have developed a special relationship after both of them were diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

Christina Dingwall, 16, was diagnosed with the disease in November of last year. Kayla Ash, 16, found out she had the same form of cancer on Christmas Eve.

The two girls go to the same high school and are in the same grade in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. They knew each other before they both ended up in St. John's at the Janeway Children's Hospital, but have grown much closer through their time together.

"We weren't really close friends, but it's definitely going to bring us close," Ash said. "Experiencing this together you don't really have it with anyone else, so I think it'll bring us pretty close."

When she started receiving treatment, Ash's main concern was losing all of her hair.

"First when I found out, that's the one thing that I was worried about the most was my hair because I wanted to grow it out for grad, which is next year," she said.

In the meantime, she has a wig that she wears whenever she goes out.

Ash said that as sad as she is that someone else is dealing with the same situation, she's happy to have someone to relate to.

The girls have had a hard time emotionally with tear-filled days together.

"I've had a lot, actually. The first month I was here, I cried a lot, and now it's just sometimes I cry for no reason," Dingwall said.

Dingwall said that she misses her friends back home, as well as being in the army cadets.

Situation hard on parents

For the parents of the girls, it has been difficult to juggle family matters at home in Labrador, as well as make St. John's as much like home as possible.

Karl Dingwall, Christina's father, said that her family was taken completely by surprise.

"Certainly, you don't ever think your kids going to have cancer or anything close to what's going on right now," he said.

"The night before she got [flown] out of Goose Bay, we noticed that she had lost a lot of weight," Karl said. "We took her in right away and they had her [flown] out three hours later, and all that was pretty much a whirlwind and the diagnosis took about five days."

Mike Ash, Kayla's dad, said their experience was a similar shock to the family.

"We noticed a lump on the side of her neck and went to the doctor to get it checked out," Mike Ash said. "Before we knew what was happening, we were [on a flight] to St. John's and we got the diagnosis. I think it was on the 24th of December actually, it was Christmas Eve."

Both of the families have multiple children so the parents have to take turns spending time at home or in St. John's.

"My wife and I basically take three week cycles, and she comes out and replaces me," Karl Dingwall said. "We cross over for a couple days so we can say hi to each other as well and then go back."

For Mike Ash, he's proud to see how strong his daughter has been through the entire process.

"She's seemed to mature a bit over the last couple months for sure — she seems quite stronger than what I would have thought, and just continuing to smile and crack jokes all the time which was quite a surprise to us actually."

Both girls hope to be finished their treatments in the spring.