“I was 20-weeks pregnant, so my husband took our son Nicholas to the hospital. I got a phone call from my husband saying, ‘They won’t let us out, and they want you to come here to talk to us’.”
That’s how Leanne and Andrew found out their five-year-old son Nicholas had Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. He was admitted to hospital immediately and needed a bone-marrow transplant. That awful day was the first of what would be years of Nicholas and his family dealing with the consequences of childhood cancer.
Nicholas’s leukaemia diagnosis meant miserable years of being a kid who was unable to do kid things.
Life for his big sister Nadia, and little brothers Christian and Luke was also dramatically changed. Two-year-old Luke was a transplant match for Nicholas and, shortly after the transplant surgery, with one son in the Oncology ward and one in emergency, Leanne’s waters broke.
Newborn baby Olivia spent the first three months of her life in a pram in the corner of Nicholas’s hospital room. Leanne told us:
“Nicholas and either myself or my husband were in hospital for 11 months straight. He only got a couple of hours out of hospital or a day release every now and then, but we were there basically all the time. He got very sick after the transplant – to the point where his organs started to shut down."
“Our four-year-old Christian started kindergarten that year and really struggled at school. Luke developed anxiety. We were lucky, my parents stepped in and helped care for the other kids, but we were probably emotionally not available to them for a lot of that period."
Nicholas's older sister Nadia, was 13 at the time he was diagnosed. She was old enough to know what was going on, and old enough to worry about losing her brother. She told us:
“Mum and Dad were exhausted and emotionally drained, and there weren’t many happy moments. Even when we’d have birthdays and things like that, it was still very sad.”
Nicholas was too sick to go to Camp for a while, but his mum and dad gratefully accepted when Camp Quality suggested his siblings might benefit from Camp.
Dad Andrew remembers feeling better because he knew his children were getting attention and care:
“We thought that it would give them some time out, a bit of fun. We were stressed, under huge amounts of pressure, and had to focus on supporting Nicholas. We thought Camp would give the others a chance to do what kids normally do.”
Later, the whole family attended a Family Camp, a chance to create happy memories in what was otherwise a bleak time:
“When you’re going through cancer treatment, organising activities is just the furthest thing from your mind. But when you go to Camp, they have all these things set up. Leanne and I could finally spend quality time with our kids and not be worrying about hospital visits or bills.”
You can help ensure no child or family facing cancer misses out on the opportunity to enjoy their childhood at Camp.