The Canadian men's rugby sevens team will wear orange laces at the New Zealand Sevens this weekend in support of Paisley MacRury, a four-year-old from Abbotsford, B.C., who is battling leukemia.
"Your strength is inspiring to us and we're going to be taking that on the field this weekend," Canadian international Jake Thiel said in a social media post.
An orange ribbon promotes leukemia awareness. Paisley, who is almost five, was diagnosed Dec. 18.
"She's doing fairly well," Graeme MacRury, her father, said in an interview. "She's getting a little bit better. She's off the first-month cycle (of drugs) which is very, very hard on them, especially for little girls. They don't seem to deal with the steroids that they get very well. But she seems to be doing pretty well.
"She's a little sad about how her hair is falling out and how her face has kind of gotten swollen. And one of the side effects is also depression from the drugs and the steroids. But she's off of it and it's kind of working its way out and we're seeing a little bit of our daughter again."
Graeme MacRury was teammates with Thiel and fellow sevens international Justin Douglas at Abbotsford RFC. Thiel, whose family is close to the MacRurys, came up with the idea and started wearing the orange laces earlier this month at the South America Rugby Sevens while playing for the Canada Maple Leafs development team.
All of the Canadian team will follow suit this weekend in Hamilton, New Zealand, the third stop of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
The rugby team's support may not have quite registered with young Paisley, who is more interested in "walking her unicorn," according to her father.
"She does love rugby. And she did get to see herself on TV last night (on a CBC newscast)," said Graeme. "I think she might have a little idea, but not the full grasp of it."
But he is deeply touched by the rugby team's gesture.
"I was a little taken back by it all," he said. "Very humbled by it. They have other things they need to be concerning themselves with leading into a tournament. And for them to take the time to do this and get the recognition and acknowledgment going about childhood cancer and support my daughter is a massive thing."
Leukemia is a cancer that starts in blood stem cells. There are four main types of the disease but many different subtypes.
According to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada and Canadian Cancer Society Statistics 2016, approximately 22,510 Canadians (13,040 males and 9,470 females) are living with, or are in remission from leukemia.
One in 53 men and one in 72 women will develop leukemia in their lifetime.
There is a PayPal site (https://paypal.me/pools/c/8aEo8cnwTG) to help the family with medical and other expenses. The family lives more than 70 kilometres away from the hospital treating Paisley and Graeme's wife Lauren is off work to look after their daughter.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press