Why I Freakin’ Love RMH (A True Story about my life and my Toronto Trip)

Last Updated on: February 25th, 2017

am wearing her mask outside RMH

Get set. I have a lot to tell (and show!!!) you today.  A ton of pictures, for sure, including a Slideshare slideshow I created of all of the pics I took during my recent trip to Toronto, plus a bit about my mom, a bit about my sister, a lot about my niece, and a lot about my experiences at RMH. Mostly, they are all intertwined!

My Life the Last Few Months

Today I am going to reveal what’s been going on in my personal life the last few months, including why I have been a bit “absent” from my blog and my online activities (such as commenting). These events are also the reason why so many guest posts have been published on Wording Well lately… and why more are yet to come!

First of all, my mom had major surgery. More about that in a minute… including some pics that might gross you out. (Sorry!)

Secondly, I took a trip. But I didn’t go on vacation. Instead, I went to Toronto, to SickKids Hospital. While in Toronto, I stayed at a place called RMH, which is actually supposed to be called Ronald McDonald House Charities Toronto, as that is their proper name, but which I will simply call RMH, as it’s much easier!

(By the way, I freakin’ love RMH! Later on, I’ll tell you why!)

My Mom’s Surgery (or should I say, “Surgeries”?)

My mom is 69 years old. She’s not in the best of health, but she’s not doing that badly, all things considered. She’s diabetic, and smokes. And she has a bad back and semi-bad legs, but she’s mainly alright, especially now that she has put a few more operations behind her!

Operations 1 and 2: Cataract Removal

In June, she had each of her eyes operated on; she had cataracts removed.

She got a new prescription for new glasses and ultimately purchased two pairs, one regular pair and one tinted pair, sunglasses she can wear when she drives. (Yep, she still drives!)

Operation 3: Tumour Removal

My mom has had a tumour on her saliva gland for a few years. It was benign, and caused her occasional discomfort. The doctors decided to leave it alone because it was non-cancerous, but told my mom to inform them if the pain got worse.

Eventually it did. In fact, it became so bothersome that the doctors decided to remove her tumour.

This particular operation was a four-hour one.

The scary part was the risk involved in such a surgery. This risk was paralysis… of the face.

This meant that there was a very real chance that my mom could end up suffering some of the things some stroke victims suffer: inability to talk, and possibly eat, or chew properly.

Needless to say, when she had her operation on September 22, 2015, I was on pins and needles all night the night before, all morning, and all afternoon, until I learned that she was out of recovery and okay. She was able to talk without any problem, although she was extremely groggy.

I Was My Mom’s Nurse

My mom was in the hospital for a total of four days. She was sent home with specific instructions on how to care for her wounds… which looked icky!

I had to carefully clean her incisions with a damp paper towel, and apply Polysporin to her wounds with a Q-Tip. I also used anti-bacterial soap and warm water (squirted on her using a syringe) once a day.

Once she had her staples removed and some of her stitches, too, I had to clean her wounds with a cotton ball and rubbing alchol. We had to leave it dry for 12 hours and then apply more Polysporin, leaving that on for the next 12 hours.

Over time, as she healed, she was able to clean her incisions herself, which, as it turned out, was a good thing, because I had to leave her for two full weeks, while I went to Toronto.

I don’t want to gross you out, but I’ve included some photos of her ear and neck, where her incisions were. She’s all healed now (pretty much), and I’ve included a shot of that, too.

I have to give props to her surgeon, Dr. Nabil Hamid, for doing such a great job! Dr. Hamid is an ear, nose, and throat specialist who has been operating on people for years, and is the same doctor who removed my tonsils… and my sister’s tonsils, too.

He’s awesome. When you compare how my mom’s ear and neck looked immediately after her surgery with how it looks today, you will agree!

Mom's ear immediately after her surgery

Mom’s ear immediately after her surgery

 Mom's ear after her surgery

Mom’s ear after her surgery

 Mom's ear stitches

Mom’s ear stitches

Mom's neck stitches

Mom’s neck stitches

Mom's ear all healed

Mom’s ear all healed

I Went to SickKids in Toronto

Now I’m going to talk about my Toronto trip.

As you may already know, I have a niece who was born with cancer in her eyes.

Her name is Samantha, but everyone calls her Sammi, or, more commonly, Sam.

I’ve blogged about her before, several times. She’s pretty amazing, and has done a lot in her 3-and-a-half years on this earth (including being the youngest participant in the 2013 Relay for Life and being asked to kick-off the relay by beginning the first lap, which she walked with the mayor of our city (and with the mayor’s wife); meeting Michael Antcliffe before he died, where she obtained an autographed copy of his book, Hope is My Wingman; and flying on a plane every few months to go to Toronto’s SickKids Hospital).

She’s been through a lot, too, especially the last few months!

Since July 2015, Sam:

  • underwent an eye removal (she lost her right eye).
  • underwent her eighth round of chemotherapy (the last one was a high-dose round).
  • had her stem cells harvested.
  • underwent a stem cell transplant.

She was at SickKids Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, for all of this.

SickKids sign lit up at night

SickKids sign lit up at night

She’s been going there since she was two days old.

My family (including Sam’s family) all live in Thunder Bay, which is a 20-hour drive to Toronto. Fortunately, it’s only a 2-hour plane ride away.

Since Sam was born, my sister has stayed at RMHC Toronto, which, as I mentioned earlier, stands for Ronald McDonald House Charities Toronto, but which I will refer to as RMH.

It’s much cheaper and safer to stay at RMH than at a hotel!

In an article published on RMH’s website (called Samantha’s Story), my sister, Janice, said “Being able to stay at Ronald Macdonald House during her treatments has been a godsend to our whole family.”

I now know how jam-packed this statement actually is. RMH offers so much!!!

Before I continue relaying my personal experiences to you, I want to provide you with a few facts about RMH. Then I’ll share some pictures… nicer ones, too, than those of my mom’s surgeries! LOL

What is RMH?

Established in 1981, Ronald McDonald House Charities® Toronto provides a “home away from home” for seriously ill children and their families to heal better together. ~source

Every year, hundreds of out-of-town families come to Toronto in search of life-saving treatment for their seriously ill children. Without the House, these families would have to stay in hotels or sleep in waiting rooms to be close to their child. ~source

Although the cost of accommodating a family for a single night is more than $125, families are asked to contribute just $15.

Ronald McDonald House Charities Toronto is more than just a place for families to lay their heads. We are somewhere where families and their children can continue the familiar routines of home life, despite  their traumatic situations. We provide an atmosphere of compassion and understanding in a stressful and frightening time. ~source

The new Ronald McDonald House Toronto accommodates 81 families a night, three times the number of families as the former House. The new House opened on time and under budget and is the second largest Ronald McDonald House in the world. ~source

The new RMH is also comprised of 15 apartments in addition to their 81 rooms, so they actually can serve 96 families each night!

In September 2003, the Ronald McDonald House Charities Toronto School opened in response to an increase in long-term stays of families at the House. At the Ronald McDonald House Charities Toronto School, seriously ill children and their siblings have the opportunity to attend class just like they do at home. ~source

Ronald McDonald House Charities Toronto (RMHC Toronto) is a “home away from home” for families of seriously ill children. We provide accommodation for 81 families each night at our House, conveniently located within minutes of Toronto hospitals. Click here to learn about House guidelines and amenities.

RMHC Toronto also operates Family Rooms in three local hospitals: The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), Credit Valley Hospital and Markham Stouffville Hospital. Built on partnerships between the hospital, RMHC Toronto and Ronald McDonald House Charities Canada, Family Rooms offer a home away from home for families within a hospital setting. Click here to learn more about visiting one of our Family Rooms. ~source

RMH FAQs

I Was Able to Stay At RMH

When my sister and I were talking about me coming to help her, she asked if I could pass a criminal records check.

Everyone who stays at RMH must pass one.

After giving my sister’s boyfriend my email address, he contacted RMH and requested that I be able to stay in the same room as my sister.

Prior to booking my flight, I filled out the questionaire and… passed. (Naturally. I’m not a criminal!)

Once I found out I was cleared, my flight was booked, and off I went… on Canadian Thanksgiving!

When I arrived in Toronto, I took a taxi from Billy Bishop Airport straight to RMH.

I dropped off most of my belongings, stayed for Thanksgiving dinner, and then hightailed it to SickKids Hospital.

Here is a map of the locations of these places. They are only four blocks from one another!

Map of Toronto that shows RMH and SickKids

Map of Toronto that shows RMH and SickKids

I brought my sister dinner, too, since dinner was free. It was a Home For Dinner dinner, which means it was a dinner donated and prepared by a group of volunteers. (More on this later.)

It was delicious! I had turkey with cranberries, roast beef with gravy, stuffing, caesar salad, yams (sweet potatoes), pasta-vegetable salad, corn, and half a dinner roll… with apple juice to drink. Yummy!!!

Thanksgiving Dinner at RMH

Why I Went to Toronto

I went to Toronto to help my sister.

Sam underwent her stem cell transplant on September 28th, 2015. We had no idea how long she was going to be in the hospital for. She was in an isolation room, too, which probably measured 10 by 10 feet. Yep, it was pretty small… just enough room for a hospital bed, a chair, a sink, a window ledge, and some medical equipment.

To get to the room itself, you have to go through FIVE doors: three doors to get into the isolation ward, then two more doors. The door to the room itself is a mechanical door, operated by a switch.

Because Sam is so young, she couldn’t be left alone. Therefore, it was impossible for my sister to tend to her basic survival needs: eating and bathing.

Living off fast food from the take-out joints in the hospital is not much fun! Neither is sleeping on chair that turns into a makeshift (and uncomfortable) sleeping cot, measuring about 2.5 by 6 feet. UGH!

So I went to help, five days after my sister’s friend left. Sherry McGinness, one of my sister’s close friends, was there for almost two weeks helping my sister out. Sherry, unfortunately, was there for all the “bad” parts; I was there for what I’ll call the “good” ones! (Thank God!!!)

Naturally, I needed clearance at SickKids, too. To obtain this, all my sister had to do was tell them who I was (her sister, Sam’s aunt), and they issued me a pass. I “wore” it on my purse so that each time I went out for a cigarette at night, the security guards didn’t have to stop me and ask to see it.

My visitor ID badge at SickKids

My visitor ID badge at SickKids

My visitor ID badge attached to my purse

My visitor ID badge attached to my purse

How My Trip Went

The flight to Toronto was smooth. It was a beautiful day that day.

I had to take some pictures as soon as I landed, as I had never been to Toronto via Porter Airlines. I had only travelled with WestJet, landing at Pearson Airport. In October, I landed at Billy Bishop Airport, which is on an island near downtown Toronto.

A view of the Airport across the water

A view of the Airport across the water

A view of the water and pier

A view of the water and pier

The Ferry in the water

The Ferry in the water

 Buildings and the CN Tower in Toronto


Buildings and the CN Tower in Toronto

How My Trip Began

I spent the first three nights and four days at SickKids Hospital, allowing my sister to sleep in a normal bed at RMH.

I arrived on Sunday, October 11th, 2015. Sam was still bedridden, as she was hooked up to an IV, and a couple of other monitoring machines. By this point, she had gotten used to staying in bed all day. She had gotten really sick after her high-dose round of chemotherapy, which caused her to get mucousitis, a mouth and throat condidtion that consequently caused her to refrain from eating or drinking for ten days. In addition to all of her other medication and IV fluids, Sam was on morphine for the pain. Thank goodness Sherry was there to help Jan cope throughout all of that!

Sam sleeping in the isolation room at SickKids

Sam sleeping in the isolation room at SickKids

By the time I arrived, Sam’s mouth sores were gone, and she had started nibbling at some food. She wasn’t really drinking yet, though.

As each day passed, I tried to get Sam to increase her food intake, and to get her drinking.

It was tough.

Bribery worked one day; I told her if she ate, she could have her tablet. She did!

On Tuesday, Sam got excited when I asked her if she wanted a bag of Hawkins’ Cheezies. Finally! Something she’d eat without coaxing!

The next day, she ate TWO bags.

Until then, she had been eating bacon, and peanut butter and jam sandwiches. She’d been drinking orange juice and chocolate milk.

She only got sick three times during my entire stay there: once on the day I arrived, once on Tuesday, and then once the following week. (She was sick all the time when Sherry was there.)

During the first three days, I took some pictures.

Here they are:

Sam and the Lego tower she built

Sam and the Lego tower she built

Selfie of Sam and Me in the isolation room at SickKids

Selfie of Sam and Me in the isolation room at SickKids

Sam and Janice relaxing in the isolation room at SickKids

Sam and Janice relaxing in the isolation room at SickKids

Sam and Janice hugging in the isolation room at SickKids

Sam and Janice hugging in the isolation room at SickKids

On Wednesday, I was super-tired, and in absolute awe of my sister. I couldn’t understand how she had managed to get through the last few weeks. Amazing. Of course, Sherry helped, and I’m grateful to her for that!

That night, my sister agreed to stay at the hospital so that I could sleep in a normal bed. I ended up going to RMH that evening, with plans to watch my weekly Wednesday TV shows.

But I couldn’t figure out the remotes. (More on this momentarily…)

Eventually I did, but couldn’t concentrate on my shows. Instead, I cleaned the bathroom and straightened up the room. Then I took some pictures.

I tried sleeping, but couldn’t. I think I was over-tired. Also, being in a foreign place was a bit weird.

At around 3 a.m., I went down to the kitchen. My sister had told me where everything was, but I wanted to see and find things for myself.

It’s a good thing I went when I did.

The kitchen was empty, save for one man, an employee of RMH, named Donald, who I later learned was the After Hours Overnight Duty Manager.

When I mentioned that I was a first-time visitor, Donald immediately smiled and welcomed me to RMH. (Coincidentally, this is the moment I got to experience the true feeling RMH offers families, and is one of the reasons I freakin’ love RMH!)

He proceeded to give me the grand tour, after learning that I was wondering where our fridge, freezer, and drawer were. (Each room is assigned particular spaces in the kitchen.)

Donald then showed me the “free pantry.” Everyone has access to whatever goods this room contains. In it were many items, including canned tuna, spaghetti sauce, green beans, corn, peaches, rice, lasagna, pasta, chile, soup, salsa, taco seasoning, crackers, miracle whip, peanut butter, jam, and salad dressings.

Donald also explained the “rules” for using the kitchen, which basically includes cleaning up after yourself, doing your own dishes, racking and sanitizing them, and then putting them away.

He showed me the coffee, tea, and hot chocolate station, which includes milk and cream in a mini-fridge next to it.

He also showed me the community fridge, where milk and condiments are readily available.

As per his duties, he was straightening things up in the entire kitchen area, preparing it to perfection for the next day, even though families have access to it and can cook in it or use it at any time.

I had a cup of tea while we were talking, and then tried to follow the newly-learned rules by putting my cup in the sanitizing area. Because it’s a waste to use the sanitizer for just one cup, Donald added it to a tray and told me he’d take care of it later. He also cleaned the counter at the coffee station, changing the can containing empty sugar packets and used tea bags and lining it and the spoon tray with fresh paper towels.

After my first experience in the kitchen area, and after talking with Donald, I dubbed him “The Kitchen Magician,” because he is akin to the invisible man, and is the one responsible for working his cleaning magic on it! (Donald loved this nickname, by the way!)

In fact, I asked Donald if he’d be open to answering a few questions… kind of like a mini-interview.

After receiving the go-ahead from his superior, he was able to reveal a few things to me, He has worked for RMH for about 4 years, has many other responsibilities, including:

  • assisting families with any issues they might be having
  • helping with check-ins and check-outs
  • assisting with the building maintenance, including repairs
  • assisting with cleaning the entire house
  • preparing the house for the next day (ie. tucking in chairs in the kitchen, etc.)
  • communicating with the Day Teams for what has been and still needs to be done

While speaking with Donald, I could tell that he loved his job. He demonstrated a great attitude, possessed a great outlook and state of mind, and was super-friendly.

When asked what his favourite part of the job was, Donald, the overnight duty manager replied, “The best part I like is the reactions I get from others when I inform them of the many free things they have access to. I like surprising the families and seeing the looks of amazement and gratitude on their faces! Plus, knowing that everything I do has a specific purpose is pretty great, too. Also, the staff all love being here, and are great to work with. Most of us come in early, and leave late. We’re a close-knit group!”

After getting the grand tour, I returned to my room. I felt more comfortable after speaking with Donald, and, indeed, felt like RMH was my “home away from home.”

I finally fell asleep around 5 a.m., although I didn’t sleep all that long.

When I woke, I texted my sister, to ask her what time I should go back to the hospital. She surprised the heck out of me when she told me Sam was being discharged that afternoon!

Hooray!

What “Discharge Day” Really Meant

Unfortunately, that didn’t mean Sam could go home. What it meant was that she could return to RMH.

Here are some pics of us preparing to leave the hospital.

I especially like the one of Sam with her “Graduation Certificate.” I’m so proud of that little girl!!!

 Sam drawing on the door before she left SickKids on Discharge Day


Sam drawing on the door before she left SickKids on Discharge Day

SamSam drawing on the door before she left SickKids on Discharge Day drawing on the door before she left SickKids on Discharge Day

Sam drawing on the door before she left SickKids on Discharge Day – pic taken with blind on other side of the door closed.

Sam preparing to leave SickKids on Discharge Day

Sam leaving on Discharge Day at SickKids

Sam leaving on Discharge Day at SickKids

Sam with her certificate and bear on Discharge Day at SickKids

Sam with her certificate and bear on Discharge Day at SickKids

Sam proudly holding her certificate on Discharge Day at SickKids

Sam proudly holding her certificate on Discharge Day at SickKids

Staying at RMH with Sam

Sam was discharged on the condition that she continue to receive IV fluids at night.

Preparations were made, and supplies were then delivered. Each night a nurse came by to flush her line and hook Sam up. (Sam had a central line in her chest, also called a double lumen, allowing access to her veins.)

Approximately 12 hours later, another nurse would come by to unhook her.

The only annoying part of having Sam hooked up to the IV was when the IV machine would wake up with its beeping whenever there was air in the tube or if an occlusion occurred. My sister would then have to fight with the machine until the problem was rectified.

So… this meant more sleepless nights. Sort of.

(Yeah, I didn’t sleep a whole lot during my trip. In fact, it took me an entire week to get caught up on my rest once I returned home!)

Although Sam was released to RMH, she still had appointments at the hospital. Mainly, she had to have her blood checked on a regular basis.

The doctors did about 12-15 tests each time they took blood.

Sam didn’t mind going to these appointments, as she enjoyed and even looked forward to playing in the children’s waiting area. She especially liked playing in the mini-kitchen!

She also didn’t mind waiting for the doctor to hear the results of her bloodwork because she liked putting her feet in the stirrups in the examination room!

Sam pretending to make breakfast in the play kitchen in the waiting room at SickKids

Sam pretending to make breakfast in the play kitchen in the waiting room at SickKids

Sam playing in the play kitchen in the waiting room at SickKids

Sam playing in the play kitchen in the waiting room at SickKids

Sam in stirrups in the room while waiting for the doctor at SickKids

Sam in stirrups in the room while waiting for the doctor at SickKids

Playing with Sam

Sam I have never spent so much time together! When she’s home, I see her for a few hours here and there (which is about all I can generally handle!).

But when I was in Toronto, I pretty much devoted my life to Sam. After all, I was there to HELP.

On the second Sunday I was there, I let my sister catch up on her sleep. I took Sam to Tim Horton’s to get my sister coffee (she needs several cups a day!) and picked up breakfast for us, too. On the way back, I stopped at the school across the street so that Sam could play on playground equipment, which she really wanted to do.

Here are some pictures of her having fun on it!

Sam climbing on the playground equipment at the school across from RMH

Sam climbing on the playground equipment at the school across from RMH

Sam climbing the net on the playground equipment at the school across from RMH

Sam climbing the net on the playground equipment at the school across from RMH

Sam climbing the ramp stairs on the playground equipment at the school across from RMH

Sam climbing the ramp stairs on the playground equipment at the school across from RMH

Sam climbing the swirl pole on the playground equipment at the school across from RMH

Sam climbing the swirl pole on the playground equipment at the school across from RMH

Sam on the monkey bars on the playground equipment at the school across from RMH

Sam on the monkey bars on the playground equipment at the school across from RMH

Sam at the top of the slide at the school across from RMH

Sam at the top of the slide at the school across from RMH

Sam at the bottom of the slide at the school across from RMH

Sam at the bottom of the slide

After we finished playing on the slide, I dropped off the stroller and Jan’s coffee and breakfast at our room. Sam ate her honey-dipped donut and then we went to the crafts room. Sam LOVES that room!

In fact, we spent a lot of our time at RMH there… whenever it was open. (The crafts room is yet another reason why I freakin’ love RMH!)

Fortunately, the room doubles as the Child Life room, and so it was open for roughly six to eight hours per day. The Child Life program allows children to address the counselor/worker with questions they may have regarding medical procedures, what their family/sibling (or self) is going through, etc. It makes things easier for children to cope with the events and situations they are enduring.

That room (the crafts/Child Life room) is also used for Woodworking activities on Wednesdays. Sam loves creating things out of wood!

The Wednesday we were there together, Woodworking involved positioning pre-cut shapes of wood on a wood block and adding a wooden candle holder to it. It was supposed to be for Halloween, but some people made theirs with a Christmas-based theme. I made mine a regular candle holder that I could use year-round.

Pictures of what we all made can be found in the following Slideshare presentation.

This Slideshare also details the RMH (Ronald McDonald House) facility in Toronto.

Featuring descriptive photographs, as well as my niece Samantha (Sam), the pictures are presented in a logical order so that you feel like you are on a semi-virtual tour of RMH.

[slideshare id=54983759&doc=allaboutrmh-151111070138-lva1-app6891]

Dining In Toronto with Family

One of my cousins lives in Toronto with his wife. When I found out I was going to be there for two weeks, I asked Tyler if he and Sara would be able to schedule a dinner with me one evening.

At first, he said yes and suggested the Crepes Club, as it was within walking distance to RMH. Then he had to cancel on me.

Prior to this cancellation, and after his initial suggestion, I researched this restaurant and read many Yelp reviews. I even went so far as to view their menu and select the dishes I wanted to order. When my cousin cancelled on me, I was not only disappointed I wouldn’t be able to see him, but I was also disappointed that I wouldn’t be dining at Crepes Club.

Fortunately, I was able to dine there with three other ladies: Kerry Kijewski (a blind author whom you might know), Kerry’s mom, and Glenda MacDonald (no relation to Ronald LOL).

I wrote a post all about this particular meeting, too. It’s about 3 writers dining together! It includes a few more pictures, too, so please take a moment to read it and look at the images of four lovely ladies! (Plus, you can see what I ate at the Crepes Club!)

But I have some bad news…

Now… with respect to getting together with my cousin, I have good and bad news.

After multiple attempts to set up another dinner, we were finally successful in scheduling a late lunch one day.

So my sister and I took Sam to The Pickle Barrel to meet Tyler and Sara. We had a good meal and caught up on both old and new times. I took two pictures of them, but ended up losing the digital photographs.

Let me tell you why and how that happened.

After we parted ways, my sister and I walked to Best Buy. I had called around that morning in search of a good deal on a memory chip for my (fairly) new Samsung Galaxy 5 phone. I was running out of storage space, and with all the pictures I was taking, I needed somewhere to put them!

I ended up buying a 64-gig chip for about 50 dollars (including taxes). It was on sale.

A Best Buy employee installed it for me, and then helped me move my pictures and videos to the memory card.

At least I thought that’s what he did. He said he did.

Turns out, he deleted them. All of them.

Yeah.

I’m not very technical, and I was unable to retrieve them, although I read on the internet somewhere that it was possible to do so. But it involved a lot of steps and downloading specific software. For me, who is not too technically adept, I decided not to bother because… good news… I had automatically backed up the majority of my photos to Dropbox! Phew!

I figured there were only about ten photos that didn’t get backed up, and of these ten, two were of Tyler and Sara.

I was still pretty upset when I discovered this, though. And I still wish I had those ten pictures.

But… live and learn. I was also too ashamed to tell Tyler what happened. He probably could’ve helped me recover them, but he had four super-busy, work-related days ahead of him, and I didn’t want to bother him with my problems.

I was happy that he was able to fit seeing us into his hectic schedule!

Dining At Red Lobster

Where we live, there is no Red Lobster… and my family loves seafood!

On my last full day in Toronto, my sister and I took Sam to Red Lobster. In fact, my mom had given us each $50 to go out and have a nice dinner together. As it turned out, my sister treated me to that dinner! She wanted to show her appreciation to me for helping out with Sam. (Thanks again, Sis!)

So, on Friday, October 23rd, 2015, I ate well. Really well.

I also took photos to document my wonderful experience, too! (Naturally.)

We went to the Red Lobster in the Atrium on Bay (Dundas Street).

The service was superb. In fact, our server went above and beyond the call of duty. Sam wanted chocolate milk, but the restaurant had run out, and so one of the employees ran to the store to buy chocolate syrup to put in plain milk just to satisfy Sam’s wants!

The server engaged us in conversation, learned we were from Thunder Bay, and was sad to hear why we were in Toronto in the first place. Because Sam enjoyed eating the biscuits that came as an appetizer to our meal, he even went out of his way to pack up a few for Sam to take back to RMH.

Plus, he was quick, friendly, and courteous.

I have to give him five-stars!

Not only did we have outstanding service, we had an excellent meal, too. In addition, I had the BEST iced tea I’ve ever tasted: Boston Peach Iced Tea. Stupendous!

Afterwards, Sam even got to see a live lobster… out of the tank!

What an excellent experience all around!

Here are the Red Lobster pics I took:

The Red Lobster sign in the mall

The Red Lobster sign in the mall

The Red Lobster Entrance from the mall

The Red Lobster Entrance from the mall

Foliage outside Red Lobster

Foliage outside Red Lobster

My meal at Red Lobster: The Ultimate Feast!

My meal at Red Lobster: The Ultimate Feast!

My meal just before I ate it, once the crab and lobster were shelled.

My meal just before I ate it, once the crab and lobster were shelled.

 Boston Peach Iced Tea and Biscuits at Red Lobster

Boston Peach Iced Tea and Biscuits at Red Lobster

Janice and Sam eating at Red Lobster

Janice and Sam eating at Red Lobster

Sam looking at the live lobsters in the tank

Sam looking at the live lobsters in the tank

Pic of a live lobster

Pic of a live lobster

I Did Not Want To Leave!

By the time it was time for me to head back home, I didn’t want to.

I was enjoying our days at RMH! In case you missed this: I freakin’ love RMH!

Why? Because of all it offers!

What RMH Offers

RMH offers families so much. There are constantly “freebies” available in the kitchen, such as canvas bags, and back-pack-like bags containing breakfast and snack items (including granola bars, instant oatmeal, cookies, etc.). But there’s so much more…

In addition to a school (yes, a school!), which is run by Katie, the principal and Danielle, a teacher, RMH also offers a lot of activities for children.

Sam attended the crafts room on a daily basis, and got involved in some of the other activities offered, including Party Jam, Music Makers, the Dance Party, Story Time, Woodworking, and, after I left, the Petting Zoo.

RMH also holds Movie Nights, once a week.

Plus there’s a fitness room (which I should’ve used but didn’t!), and a Games Room..

The staff and volunteers at RMH are awesome, too. They are always helpful, full of smiles, are upbeat and caring, and are simply a pleasure to be around.

They are basically like angels from heaven here on Earth. Their attitudes are infectious, too, as are those of the Home For Dinner volunteers.

From the information I gleaned from Candice Gurwitz, the head of the Family Services division, there are only about 40 staff members. The rest are volunteers; over 450 of them!

There are also Home For Dinner dinners.

All weekly activities are posted throughout RMH via a paper called Week-at-a-Glance. You can find these postings in the kitchen, the elevators, and at the front desk. Sometimes there are even extra copies for families to take back to their rooms. Note that the Home For Dinner dinners are listed in the following picture at the bottom, in red.

Week at a Glance from Oct 19 to 25

Week at a Glance from Oct 19 to 25

The Home For Dinner Dinners

These dinners are held are a regular basis, at 6 p.m. in the kitchen, and are donated and prepared by many different groups. One of the dinners we had while there was tacos and salad. Another was the Thanksgiving Dinner. Another was a wonderful dinner put on by the RBC Capital Markets group, which puts on a dinner every 2 to 3 months.

That dinner in particular stands out in my mind because the menu consisted of:

  • pork tenderloin
  • potatoes
  • gravy
  • a California salad (with Mandarin oranges, strawberries, shaved almonds, and a sweet dressing)
  • corn
  • glazed carrots
  • dinner rolls
  • apple cobbler and ice cream (for dessert)
  • lemonade or chocolate milk to drink

This is one of the only dinners that my sister said consisted of pork tenderloin. That said, I have a funny feeling I’m forgetting something about this dinner. I know that I went up to the group after dinner (while they were dining) and thanked them for an amazing feast. Cathy is the name of the coordinator for the RBC; Kevin is the name of the Home For Dinner coordinator for RMH.

Home For Dinners are Helpful to Families

Having these dinners is extremely helpful to families for many reasons, in my opinion, and is yet another reason why I freakin’ love RMH:

  • families can save a few dollars on groceries
  • families don’t have to prepare the meal themselves
  • families don’t have to clean up afterwards either
  • families can dine and socialize with other families
  • families can come together to support one another in times of need
  • children can play together and/or watch TV together afterwards
  • it gives volunteers an opportunity to give back to the community

I know that I really liked the socializing aspect. Then again, I’m a chatty person, so why wouldn’t I?! (LOL)

In fact, I socialized quite a bit while I was there. Because I’m a smoker, mostly I met people in the smoking section. However, I met many others in the kitchen, too.

I Also Made Friends!

Not only was I able to meet my author friend, Kerry Kijewski, (and get an autographed copy of the anthology to which she contribted, of which I wrote a review) but I was able to make a few new friends.

Angie and her boyfriend Cory, and Stacey and her four children are among the people on this list!

Me and Angie

Me and Angie

Angie and Cory

Angie and Cory

How I Met Angie

I met Angie one day in the smoking area. I had passed her a few times in the hallway, and smiled at her, but the crestfallen expression she wore remained on her face. When I ran into her again in the smoking section and noted she looked the same, I opened my arms and said, “You look like you could use a hug.”

Angie welcomed my embrace, and immediately burst into tears.

After talking and letting out her frustration and stress, she felt better.

We became fast friends, going so far as to use our smartphones to become friends on Facebook as well as exchange phone numbers so that we could text one another to meet up for a smoke later that night.

Immediately meeting me, she posted this on Facebook, simultaneously tagging me:

“Just when I was at the end of my rope… along came Lorraine Reguly out of nowhere to embrace me and make me feel better. Just stepping out for a minute and meeting someone you instantly connect with.. priceless.
The only positive thing about having to go thru this, is the beautiful people you meet along your journey.
I’m so honored to meet you lorraine! Thank you for talking to me.. ♡”

Angie, my new friend, posted this on Facebook immediately after meeting me!

Angie Brant's FB posting about me

Angie Brant’s FB posting about me

How I Met Stacey

I actually met Stacey’s children first.

In fact, I met two of her daughters on my first Wednesday at RMH. They were taking the elevator to the main floor, as was I, because I needed to talk to the people at the front desk about how to work the three remotes in my room.

Chayse and Bailey offered up some information about the smallest remote, saying that it was the one that controlled everything. They also told me which remote to use to set things up so that I could just use the small one.

I tried setting things up according to their instructions, but, as it turned out, the small remote’s batteries were dead!

Eventually, I figured things out, and replaced the batteries with the help of a nice lady from the front desk.

After that, I ran into the same two girls and their two sisters in the kitchen, on multiple occasions, especially during the Home For Dinner meals. After supper, I generally took my niece into the indoor playroom, and many children, including the four sisters, often were present.

The children loved the funny voice I used for “Mr. Horse,” a horse that consisted of a head made of fabric attached to the end of a broomstick pole.

The youngest girls, especially Sam and another girl her same age, laughed hysterically, and even ended up rolling around on the floor!

Stacey and I met eventually, and spoke to one another each time we crossed paths. I even offered to watch her girls in the crafts room one night.

We also became Facebook friends, and exchanged numbers. With her permission, I included some photos in the Slideshare presentation I created about RMH.

Stacey is someone whom I admire for many reasons, but mainly because she has FOUR children (one is more than enough for me!) and has kept them all together during this visit to Toronto.

Stacey was also the inspiration for the poem I wrote on my last night there, which I shared with many other parents and grandparents before I left.

My Poem

On the printout I gave Stacey and five of the other parents/grandparents, it said:

“This poem is meant to uplift you. It was written by the sister of one of the RMH guests, who stayed at RMH for two weeks in October 2015 while her niece recovered from chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. She met many wonderful parents and children while here… including you!”

A Special Strength

The struggles I face sometimes seem too much to bear,
But the people who surround me, who really DO care,
Help make things better by giving me might,
Which empowers me as I endure my plight.

The warmth and understanding they extend to me
Makes me feel just a little bit more free.
Their love and generosity truly is heartfelt;
They help me put another day under my belt.
The compassion and closeness helps me feel better inside,
And allows me to face life… instead of wanting to hide.

Though the days are long and plentiful,
Each day is filled with light,
And deep in my heart I’m filled with hope
That things will turn out all right.

~ Lorraine Reguly, Author/Writer/Editor/Teacher, October 23rd, 2015.

I’m honoured that this poem was also shared by RMH on Facebook!

Some Toronto Pics

Due to the circumstances of my trip, I was limited in where I went while in Toronto.

However, I saw a few things in Toronto that struck me as different, including a brown pigeon!

I took some photos of various random things, too, such as a Toronto parking meter (which look very different than the ones in Thunder Bay, where I live), and Toronto at night.

I’ve also included a map of the ten-block radius that I covered.

Here are those pics:

My Toronto Map

My Toronto Map

A brown pigeon

A brown pigeon

A brown and a grey pigeon

A Toronto parking meter I saw

A Toronto parking meter I saw

A view of the boulder statues from inside the cab on my way to RMH

A view of the boulder statues from inside the cab on my way to RMH

Fiery Food Truck in Toronto

Fiery Food Truck in Toronto

Green Food Truck in Toronto

Green Food Truck in Toronto

Statue on University Ave

Statue on University Ave

The Water Fountain inside SickKids Hospital

The Water Fountain inside SickKids Hospital

Scenery of tall buildings while crossing a bridge in Toronto

Scenery of tall buildings while crossing a bridge in Toronto

Toronto at Night

Toronto at Night

Sam’s Return Home (Yep, to her home in Thunder Bay!)

Sam, I’m pleased to announce, has returned home! She made it home the Thursday before Halloween. Talk about cutting things close!

All I heard while I was in Toronto was that she was going to be a Minion for Halloween. And her older brother (he’s 6) was going to be Batman.

“Batman Ali!” Sam would squeal when the subject of Halloween was brought up (which it often was, as a way of distracting her and keeping her happy).

“Minion Sammi!” she’d add, smiling from ear to ear.

True to her word, Sam was a Minion, and Ali was Batman.

I, of course, was a witch. (Which my sister asserts is my true self. LOL. That bitch. LOL.)

Sam and Ali on Halloween

Sam and Ali on Halloween

Sam dressed like a Minion for Halloween

Sam dressed like a Minion for Halloween

Me and my friend dressed up for Halloween

Me and my friend dressed up for Halloween

Sam is Healing

Sam is still on medication, and will be for another five to six months, but she is healing and recovering just fine.

I’m so pleased that she has pulled through all of her surgeries, tests, and treatments.

She’s even exercising! LOL

So’s Ali!

Sam exercising at Grandma's house

Sam exercising at Grandma’s house

Sam with the mini exercise ball

Ali with the exercise band

Ali with the exercise band

Ali with the barbells and a muscle-man expression on his face

A Few Final Words… and Some Praise

I first want to thank God for helping our family through the past several months.

I also want to thank RMH for existing, for being there for so many families, including mine. The love they extend to others is truly heartfelt, needed, bountiful, and definitely appreciated!

Finally, I want to thank the many people who helped me maintain my blog while I was away. I appreciate your kindness, generosity, and your contributions to Wording Well.

I have to praise all of my friends, too. They were they when I needed them, and I’m glad they were.

And now you know why I’ve not been around much… and also why I freakin’ love RMH!

8 thoughts on “Why I Freakin’ Love RMH (A True Story about my life and my Toronto Trip)

  1. Adrienne says

    Welcome home Lorraine although you really weren’t ready to head home.

    Those that visited my blog last month recall that you were my guest and unfortunately it went live during that time you were with your sister so I applaud you for trying to keep up with my commenters. It’s not an easy job on a good day at times.

    I’m just so glad that Sam is doing much better and back home too. I know your sister really did appreciate you coming to help and I enjoyed hearing about everything accept your Mom’s ear is definitely gross. I like the healed version much better. lol…

    As you may remember me mentioning numerous times that my Dad had cancer my entire life, Ronald McDonald House is a HUGE part of MD Anderson cancer center and where patients stay when they bring their families. We donate to it every year and have for as long as I can remember. Fortunately for me I’ve never had to actually stay there but I’ve heard from so many families that have and it’s been a Godsend for them as well. I’m glad they treated you well and you’re singing their praises.

    I hope you’re back to some type of normalcy. We’re off this week to celebrate our Thanksgiving so sorry I’m just now getting by here. Busy week indeed and I have to start cooking tonight and then tomorrow. We’re celebrating early due to my sister’s schedule.

    You have a great week and again, welcome home.

    ~Adrienne

    • says

      Adrienne,

      Thanks so much (for about the tenth time!) for your patience and understanding during that trip where my guest post was concerned. You were very patient with the temporary problems I encountered, like limited internet access, trouble being seing as a spambot by your site, and the delay in responding to some of the comments. I did my level best and I’m glad we were able to figure things out and overcome these obstacles.

      I also want to thank you again for allowing me to share my experiences with your precious audience. I know you worked hard to build a faithful following and I consider myself blessed to be a guest on your blog.

      I’m so happy I’m home and that everyone is returning to good health. Yes, my mom’s ear was extremely gross in the beginning but it is doing quite well now. She just has to put Zincofax on it twice a day now. (I know, weird, right? Zincofax is typically used to treat rashes on babies!)

      Sam is doing great, and is back to her old self. I’m also getting back into a groove regarding blogging and commenting, etc. but it’s tough. The good thing is that I have had a lot of help from others and so have a stash of guest posts in my queue. Phew!

      As far as your Dad goes, I know you miss him, and yes, RMH is a great place. I can’t sing praises loud enough for all they do, and the huge impact they have on others. There just aren’t enough words to describe how angelic they are!

      I hope you have a great Thanksgiving this week.

      Thank you for taking the time to read why I freakin’ love RMH, and for your your lovely comment.

      Keep on rockin’ it, girlfriend!

  2. What a time you had! I’m so glad you were able to do so many things and that Sam and your Mom are doing well. This sounds like it should be made into a movie! It has all the suspense, drama, comedy, and yes, a great ending! You are such a special person!

    • says

      Jo Ann, you could say that I’ve been busy! LOL

      What took a long time was putting this post together, though. I had to sort through a couple of hundred pictures and organize them all so that my Slideshare (and blog post) presented them in a logical, orderly fashion.

      Thanks for the lovely compliment, too! You are a special person to me as well, Jo Ann. Hugs!

  3. Hi Lorraine,

    Good to have you back 🙂

    My goodness! You surely seem to have gone through quite a bit. I didn’t know about your Mom’s surgeries, though I knew all about Sam, as I’d seen the slideshare you’d put up a few days back about your stay at the hospital and all of it. Sorry, I couldn’t comment and interact much as I had my Dad visit us for a few weeks along with the festivities we had our end, but nice to be back in the gear now.

    Lovely snaps indeed, and I loved to go through all of your experiences. Almost seems like I am reading a real life story, which it is actually! So glad Sam is recovering and doing well, and so good that you were there for your family and sister, especially when they needed you. God Bless you all.

    Thanks for sharing it all with us. Have a nice and relaxing weekend, you deserve it 🙂

    • says

      Harleena, I know we both have have been busy. You with your family, festivities, and your new blog… and me with, well, all of my health issues (both my own and those of my family members).

      It’s good to have things back to “normal” now, though… finally!

      I’m glad you took the time to look at the pics; I sure like knowing that they are appreciated!

      FYI, I actually took the weekend off (I generally work weekends and take a couple of weekdays off), and I loved “unplugging.”

      I hope you had a great time with your family and will decide to post pics somewhere, too (on your blog, on Facebook, etc.).

      I’d love to see them!

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