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Ruby and her twin sister, Tilda, were just 7 months old when Ruby developed a lump in her stomach. She was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a type of cancer that mostly affects children under five. The diagnosis was doubly devastating for her parents, Lea and Ian, who had lost a baby girl, Tully, to a congenital condition three years earlier.
The mass was too close to Ruby’s nerves and spine to operate, so reducing its size with chemotherapy was her only hope. Her doctors called it a ‘watch and wait’ approach.
Juggling chemotherapy with twin babies came with some unexpected challenges. Mother Lea says,
“We weren’t allowed to have them near each other, because of the toxicity of the chemo. We’d have to separate the toys, we’d have to bath them separately, and wear gloves to change Ruby’s nappies. They were too young to understand why they couldn’t play with each other, or why I would scream if Tilda went to drink out of Ruby’s cup.”
The usual proud baby milestones were a little less joyful. When Ruby’s first teeth came through the bleeding wouldn’t stop, so she had to be rushed to the hospital for a platelet transfusion.
After Ruby finished chemo, the whole family came along to their first Family Camp. It was a special time for them as a family.
Ruby’s Dad, Ian, works in mental health and said going to Family Camp was just the break from cancer the family needed.
“The camps are great because you’re taking the family outside of their environment, but into an environment that is still safe and supportive. It just allows everyone to breathe,” Ian explained.
“It gave us an opportunity to see the kids being kids again, and just them being happy, and mixing with other kids that had gone through the same experience, and doing the fun stuff that the camp allows them to do. But also to talk to other parents, and develop supports and friendships. To struggle through cancer by yourself would be really difficult.”
A cancer diagnosis affects every member of the family, which is why Camp Quality programs are designed to support the whole family through the cancer journey.
Ian was particularly grateful for the happiness Family Camp brought to Ruby’s older brother, Isaac.
“Having the relief for Isaac to just be a little boy again was really important. He was there when Tully was born and passed away, then had to watch another sister potentially going through that again. He would remember all of what we went through, it’s something you don’t forget. But he has also been able to build new memories around the camps, and friendships, and just the fun that they had, that will stay with him as well.”