Cheeky, smart, obsessed with Frozen: at first glance Ava seems to be an average six-year-old. Rewind to January 2011, however, and it’s a different story. When Ava was six months old, doctors found a five-and-a-half centimetre neuroblastoma in her chest and abdomen, with secondary bone cancer. Over the next year, little Ava endured eight rounds of chemotherapy and three operations. Then, just before Christmas 2012, the family received the best possible seasonal gift: news that Ava required no further treatment. Now, with part-time monitoring, Ava can enjoy the everyday pleasures of any other healthy child, oblivious of her babyhood illness, just as it should be!
Jane & Sam were living in Shanghai with their 2 boys when they noticed Thomas, the youngest, had noticeable weakness in the right-hand side of his face. An MRI scan was done however came back all clear. After being referred to a lot of specialists, with no results, the family decided to move back to Perth and seek medical help in Australia.
All the staging tests were performed the next week, and treatment began straight away. Thomas needed a second surgery to get clear margins and try to eliminate the need for radiation. He also had a surgery to have a port inserted, where he would receive chemotherapy and other medications.
During treatment, everything revolved around cancer. Jane had to stop work to look after Thomas, and Sam had to spend a lot of time looking after Oliver. This had a huge financial and emotional impact. Thomas had to miss out on a lot during treatment as oncology children cannot be around other kids. No parks, no playgrounds, no cinemas, no shopping centres, no swimming pools. And it wasn’t just Thomas who missed out, Oliver, Thomas's older brother, was restricted from all of these places too.
Fortunately, after 8 rounds of chemotherapy, over 6 months, Thomas was declared cancer-free. And on 1 February 2017 , 6 months post treatment, the Hunt family received the good news that Thomas was still cancer-free.
Despite the good news, the Hunt family still lives in fear of little Thomas relapsing.
Lulu had a fever that wouldn't go away. At first, her parents thought it was teething issues, so they took her to the hospital for further tests - but never made it home after that.
Many doctors and tests later, Lulu's fever was still refusing to dissipate. The family was sent to Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick - where they found a tumour in her abdomen and extensive cancer in her bones and bone marrow.
The tumour in Lulu's abdomen was the size of a grapefruit. She was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma and started immediately on chemotherapy - but did not respond to her first four rounds.
Lulu's lack of response meant her case was upgraded to high-risk. Today, aged just five, she has undergone a dozen rounds of chemo, several surgeries, a transplant, radiation and an immunotherapy trial.
Lulu's case continues to defy statistics and she is still not cancer-free. Her family is now playing an anxious waiting game; hoping for breakthroughs in scientific research that lead to new and innovative drug discoveries.
Violet had been complaining of tummy upsets and aches and pains for several months, but everyone thought it was just growing pains. In November 2015, an ultrasound picked up the real cause – a tumour the size of a fist near her left kidney. Her official diagnosis was Stage 4 neuroblastoma.
Colleen and Craig weren’t prepared for how quickly Violet would deteriorate. Their sunny, sweet girl was being ‘eaten up’ by this terrible illness. Two weeks after being admitted to Lady Cilento Hospital, Brisbane, the pain in her legs was so bad she couldn’t walk. Violet’s treatment began immediately with seven rounds of chemotherapy, as well as a nine hour surgery to remove most of the tumour and her left kidney. The next few months the family were by Violet’s side as she underwent radiation therapy and immunotherapy.
It was a gruelling new way of life. Craig and Colleen juggled school drop-offs with bedside vigils and complicated medical procedures. They were awake in an instant in the middle of the night to help Violet as she endured the side-effects of her treatment.
Family dinners at home became a thing of the past. Violet’s appetite was completely destroyed by the cancer and the medication, so she had to be tube fed. The constant demands of Violet’s medical regime, the emotional strain and the day-to day cares of life took their toll on everyone. Craig took extended leave from work, while Colleen put her studies on hold.
It’s been nearly 2 years since Violet was diagnosed. During which time she should have been practicing handstands in the playground and playing with her friends. Instead, she’s endured more suffering than most of us will ever experience in our lifetimes. She has finished treatment now, but if she relapses there is little hope. However, our research into new treatments could change that.
Children with cancer have an all-consuming passion for life and Violet is no exception. Violet has recently taken up roller-skating and is determined to not let cancer stop her having fun. Craig and Colleen have worked hard to lighten the load on their family. They’ll go to extraordinary lengths to make Violet’s day brighter.
These are just a few of the very many children that urgently
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