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‘It’s definitely a part of me,’ says brother Tristan

Taya Cotiga passed away in 2009 at the age of four. Her loss is still deeply felt by her family, including mom Candyse and big brother Tristan. – Tamara Botting/ Metroland

Most of Tristan Cotiga’s memories of his sister, Taya, are from when she was in the hospital.

“It’s bad, but I don’t remember much because it was so long ago,” he said. “I don’t like that.”

He was eight when Taya died from a brain tumour; he’s now 17.

“It’s definitely a part of me. I’ve got it all over my body,” Tristan said.

Like his hair, which he wears longer, because it’s curly like Taya’s was. Like the tattoo on his forearm that reads “Bobo,” her nickname for him.

Or the panic attacks, anxiety and depression he experiences.

He was just diagnosed around the start of this summer.

“He hid it from me for so long,” said Candyse Cotiga, his mom.

During Taya’s illness, “He was very understanding, but it was so hard, because we couldn’t go home and cry with him, or help him to understand,” she said.

When Tristan went to visit Taya in the hospital, “mentally, it was hard on (him), to see her like that,” Candyse said.

Taya was hospitalized for two and a half months before she passed.

Candyse said that an illness like Taya’s doesn’t just affect the patient, but everyone around them too.

And when a child passes, “the hell starts for the family.”

Wanting to bring something good out of Taya’s death, her family founded the Taya Cotiga Fund. They raise money to support families who are going through cancer treatments.

“Everything else still goes on. There’s still the mortgage and the other bills you have to pay,” Candyse said. “And when your child has cancer, it’s a minimum of a year, if not two, for any treatment plan.”

Each family the fund helps is given a minimum of $500 in gift cards for things like meals, parking and groceries.

On Sept. 23, there will be a fundraiser for the fund in Binbrook.

Michelle Tuite and her family hold a lemonade stand every year to raise money; Tuite’s daughter, Caidance, and Taya were best friends.

It will be from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the Water Tower Park in Binbrook.

All of the money raised for the fund goes directly to the families.

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