18 Mar 2016
Asante Conley’s mum, Cherie Lang, describes her son as a ‘brave wee trooper’ in facing his battle with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL).
Asante was diagnosed with cancer on New Year’s Eve 2014, and, in a cruel twist of fate, his fifth birthday.
“When he didn't want to eat his birthday cake I really started to worry.
That night Asante had a high temperature and pain in his shoulder, so Cherie took him to the emergency department at Rotorua Hospital.
“Asante was really looking forward to picking up our new puppy. Sadly, in the end we didn’t get the puppy as our whole world changed that night.”
“It was 10pm when we arrived, and at midnight on 1 January Asante was pre-diagnosed with Leukaemia. I didn't know what I thought he might have, but it certainly wasn't Leukaemia,” says Cherie.
Asante was immediately given two blood transfusions and the next morning the family were flown to hospital in Auckland for treatment to begin.
“It all seems so surreal now, the first month was highly unpleasant but Asante handled it so well being jabbed, prodded and expected to take several pills a day.
He managed to smile through most of the days”
Support through treatment
From the time of Asante’s diagnosis and throughout treatment the Child Cancer Foundation has been able to support the family.
“Essentially the Child Cancer Foundation has lifted or carried me at times of complete and utter despair. The Foundation has been an absolute rock – both emotionally as well as financially through assistance with grocery and travel costs,”
“My Family Support Coordinator, Barb’s, assistance is instrumental, she has the foresight to do the things or say the things that we would not have thought of. This was especially evident at our school visit which she came along to. This is invaluable to me because there is simply no guidebook with this!”
Cherie says other things organised by the Foundation have had a positive effect on both her and Asante.
“Things like ‘a Special Boy’s Day Out’ helps to create a positive memory that outshines the chemo, the pinpricks and the nausea etc. The photos from that day show a boy with the biggest smiles ever and it was really quite emotional for me to see him have his first (literally) day of fun since being diagnosed.”
“For me, the morning teas that Barb organises with other mums whose children are fighting cancer are extremely helpful, we can talk about our children or about the grass growing...it’s just nice to be out of the house, away from hospital and not feel obligated to talk 'cancer'.”
The road forward
Following the intensive month-long period of treatment in Auckland, Asante was able to come home.
Since then, there have been a few ups and downs, including spending five days in Rotorua Hospital with viral pneumonia, before being transferred back to Auckland when his condition got worse.
“Asante required a nasal gastric tube, oxygen and had a fever for 12 straight days, before he finally came back to us.”
Asante has now started the maintenance phase of treatment and started school at the end of last year, after his diagnosis saw him delay starting school.
“He’s not shy about talking about his condition. I remember at a Matariiki celebration some kids asked him why he had no hair and a tube in his nose. He just answered them matter-of-factly and somewhat proudly of his condition.”
Asante’s Poppa plays a key role in his life and the pair are often found playing golf or fishing together, while his little sister, Alia is always there as a playmate. He is also “mad keen” to play rugby this season.
How you can help
The Child Cancer Foundation is a nationwide organisation that works hard to reduce the impact of cancer. A donation from you will help us provide the support families need from that terrible time of diagnosis, throughout treatment and beyond.