The community of Quispamsis, N.B., is rallying behind a 14-year-old girl who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer.
Marissa Gootjes was at a friend’s house over Thanksgiving weekend when she suddenly had a seizure. She was taken to hospital by ambulance.
"Within a few days after that we discovered there was a tumour,” says Jan Gootjes, Marissa’s mother. “A week after that she had surgery at the IWK. A week after that they told us it was malignant."
Jan then started the hashtag #MarissaTheFierce, something she used on social media while giving updates to family and friends in midst of Marissa’s surgery. That hashtag is proving just how tough Marissa is as she battles her aggressive disease head-on.
Marissa, a hockey fanatic, became provincially known when the KV Minor Hockey Association hosted a fundraiser for her last weekend. Six teams made it out to make sure Marissa got to witness her favourite sport.
"I thought it was going to be maybe 25 to 50 people, but I think it was probably more than that," she says.
It definitely was. More than 1,000 people came out to show their support, raising over $18,000 for the family.
“When everyone found out about this family and what they were going through a lot of people thought, ‘My gosh, this could happen to anyone,’” says Lynn Fletcher of the KV Minor Hockey Association. “So what better way to do something than to bring in hockey because we know those girls love their hockey."
Her story has also touched many people online. A GoFundMe account for Marissa has raised more than $25,000 in just two weeks.
"It definitely gives us strength to get through this,” says Jan. “When the days are hard, at least she can think back to how many people where supporting her and how many people care about her."
The family is staying at a retreat centre in Rothesay after they discovered their home had air quality issues, making it unliveable.
Marissa starts her chemotherapy and radiation treatments on Tuesday in Halifax.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Mary Cranston.