Andres and Donna Blanleil pose with son Kyle 15 years ago in Vancouver when he was recovering from a 23-hour surgery to remove a cancerous tumour from his spine. (Contributed)

Andres and Donna Blanleil pose with son Kyle 15 years ago in Vancouver when he was recovering from a 23-hour surgery to remove a cancerous tumour from his spine. (Contributed)

Kelowna man who faced terminal prognosis offers hope to 12-year-old Salmon Arm girl

Kyle Blanleil defied doctors’ predictions regarding spinal cancer, raising funds for Shuswap family

Sixteen years ago, Kyle Blanleil, 35, was diagnosed with spinal cancer and told he had five years to live, four of them in a wheelchair.

A week ago he came to Salmon Arm to meet and tell his story to Matt and Carolyn Krawczyk and their 12-year-old daughter Halle, who has also been diagnosed with a form of chordoma.

“It was very emotional,” he said, his voice wavering.

“She’s got such a bubbly personality, she’s got a big smile, she’s always joking around, that’s sort of how I was going through it.

“I think from playing competitive sports, it gives you a mentality that you need to be competitive and beat it and bear down, but at the same time, laugh and joke and smile and be positive about it.

“There’s not much you can do about the situation other than face it head on,” he said.

Read more: Salmon Arm parents raise funds for surgery to combat daughter’s rare cancer

Read more: Parents thrilled over decision on surgery funding for Salmon Arm girl with rare cancer

Read more: Salmon Arm cancer survivor plunges into Christmas craft making to fund another girl’s surgery

Halle, 12, has a rare, one-in-20-million, ‘poorly differentiated chordoma’ and Blanleil had chordoma of a different type, but their stories are remarkably similar.

Blanleil was 19 and playing Junior B hockey in Campbell River at the time. Halle is a competitive gymnast.

Experiencing balance problems, Blanleil underwent surgery for a tumour on his spine. He was told it was not cancerous and the surgeon had removed 90 to 95 per cent of it.

A month later, however, the B.C. Cancer centre in Kelowna contacted his family to say it was a chordoma and the surgeon had only removed 40 per cent of it.

He said his family was told “there wasn’t a surgeon on the planet that would do the surgery that I needed to survive.”

His dad asked if the family could look at surgery in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world, but was told to save their money and make their house wheelchair accessible, because he had five years to live and one year to walk.

“My folks, kind of like Halle’s parents, did a ton of research. They sent my tissue all around the U.S. and all around the world.”

Through a series of connections, Rick Hansen, activist for people with disabilities, passed on information about a surgeon at an excellent spine surgery facility in Vancouver.

Blanleil then underwent a 23-hour surgery in Vancouver and seven weeks’ recovery in hospital. He later had proton beam radiation in California, similar to what is planned for Halle in the U.S.

Now, he is completely healthy, cancer-free, with a son, two step-kids and a spouse.

“It’s pretty special.”

At Blanleil’s 10-year cancer-free anniversary six years ago, he and close friends hosted a fundraiser in Kelowna where they raised $40,000 and donated it to Cops for Kids.

At 16 years cancer-free, he wants to raise money to provide for Halle and her family as she undergoes three surgeries with a world-renowned surgeon and team in Pittsburgh.

Joining Blanleil is close friend Mitch Carefoot of Kelowna, who is in the live music and entertainment business and has worked with him on several fundraisers. Carefoot remembers fondly 2003 and the early years of his hockey career when he moved from Manitoba to play with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks – a connection to Salmon Arm he has maintained to this day.

Blanleil has posted a video outlining his story and their #HandstandForHalle campaign. It asks that people do a handstand for Halle, post a video as well as link to the Help for Halle gofundme site. Already it has been shared widely, including by the Canucks hockey team and TSN.

Blanleil’s family owns Andre’s Electronic Experts stores in Kelowna, Vernon and Kamloops. Blanleil said the business is donating $5,000 to the Krawczyks as well as asking for $2 with every transaction at the till to go to Halle’s family. For people living in Salmon Arm, Sorrento or Sicamous, donations can be made at SASCU to the Halle Krawczyk trust account.

Blanleil reiterates how fortunate he is.

“With everything going on right now, you kind of forget to be grateful for what you have. Looking at Halle’s parents, discussing with them what they’re going through, it really puts into perspective how lucky I am, and blessed to have the life I have.”

He’s also grateful for the publicity Halle is getting.

“I think also drawing attention to Halle’s personality and perseverance and positivity really are going to be the reasons why she makes it through and has a success, just like I did,” he said.


marthawickett@saobserver.net
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CancerSalmon Arm

 

Halle Krawczyk of Salmon Arm celebrated her 12th birthday in November 2020. Halle suffers from a rare form of cancer and needs surgery in the U.S., but her family must raise up to $200,000 to be able to support her for her six-month stay. (Contributed)

Halle Krawczyk of Salmon Arm celebrated her 12th birthday in November 2020. Halle suffers from a rare form of cancer and needs surgery in the U.S., but her family must raise up to $200,000 to be able to support her for her six-month stay. (Contributed)

Pictured with his son Decker, Kyle Blanleil of Kelowna came to Salmon Arm recently to meet Halle, Matt and Carolyn Krawczyk. Halle needs surgery for cancer, a rare form of chordoma. Sixteen years ago Blanleil was diagnosed with a type of chordoma and was told he had just five years to live, most of them in a wheelchair. He is raising funds for Halle. (Contributed)

Pictured with his son Decker, Kyle Blanleil of Kelowna came to Salmon Arm recently to meet Halle, Matt and Carolyn Krawczyk. Halle needs surgery for cancer, a rare form of chordoma. Sixteen years ago Blanleil was diagnosed with a type of chordoma and was told he had just five years to live, most of them in a wheelchair. He is raising funds for Halle. (Contributed)

Just Posted

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce will host the Valley Wide Business Expo May 4 at Predator Ridge Resort. (photo submitted)
Golf raffle helps Okanagan families score homes

Habitat for Humanity Okanagan swinging into action this summer with a new raffle

The weekly COVID-19 map for June 6 to 12. (BC CDC)
South Okanagan sees only 5 new cases in last week

The Similkameen Valley went a second week without any new cases

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Rita Coolidge played the main stage at Vancouver Island Musicfest in 2017. (Black Press file photo)
This year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest to virtually showcase beauty of Comox Valley

Returning July 9 through 11 with more than 25 hours of music performances

British Columbia’s premier says he’s received a second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. (Twitter/John Horgan)
B.C. premier gets 2nd dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

John Horgan shared a photo of himself on social media Friday afternoon holding a completed vaccination card

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

Earls On Top at 211 Bernard Avenue in Kelowna. (Google Maps photo)
Downtown Kelowna’s Earls ordered closed after COVID-19 transmission

Earls on Top on Bernard Avenue will be closed from June 18 to June 27

A motorycle crash has been reported on Westside Road. (Google Maps)
UPDATE: Westside Road reopened following motorcycle crash near Vernon

AIM Roads advises drivers to expect delays due to congestion

(File photo)
Penticton not holding Canada Day activities out of respect for Indigenous people

Cities across B.C. are cancelling the holiday after an increased spotlight on Canada’s dark history

Dereck Donald Sears. (Contributed/Crimestoppers)
Murder charge laid in relation to suspicious Kelowna death

Dereck Donald Sears is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Darren Middleton

Most Read