18 Mar 2016
After being diagnosed with cancer, Emily spent nearly two years undergoing countless treatments, a bone marrow transplant and many lengthy hospital stays.
In mid-2012, then aged six, Emily couldn’t shake a flu-like bug.
“After weeks of Emily feeling extremely tired and having time off school for viral infections, we noticed severe bruising on her feet after a day out at the river,” says Emily’s mum, Joanne.
“We took Emily to the GP who sent her for urgent blood tests and this is where our journey started.”
Support through diagnosis and treatment
The family were sent to Hutt Hospital that afternoon, and after eight nights were transferred to Wellington Hospital, and from there to the CHOC ward in Christchurch where Emily underwent a range of tests.
From the time of diagnosis and throughout treatments, time spent in hospital and trips to clinics for check-ups, Emily and her family have been supported by the Child Cancer Foundation.
“Craig and I are very grateful to the support we’ve received from the Child Cancer Foundation,” she says.
“Our local Family Support Coordinator, Sally really understands us and has been able to help relieve some of the enormous amount of stress and frustration we have.”
Testing continued for almost 18 months at approximately three monthly intervals. Due to the complexity of Emily’s symptoms it took time to get a confirmed diagnosis but in September 2013 Emily was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS).
After the diagnosis, Emily’s parents and siblings, Ben, Cameron and her identical twin sister Hannah, were sent for blood tests for tissue typing.
All three of her siblings were a complete match and Ben was selected by the Auckland hospital team to be her sibling donor.
Weathering tough times
In October 2014 Emily started chemotherapy as preparation for a bone marrow transplant. The family spent four months in Auckland during that time, continuing on with the support of the Foundation while they were away from home.
“As a family we have been lucky enough to be involved with Child Cancer Foundation in both Wellington and Auckland, and we are always overcome by the support that we receive,” says Joanne.
“Whether it is just a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on there is always somebody there for you from the Foundation.”
“We struggled during our time in Auckland, as we had no family support base but we were visited nearly every day by one of the Family Support team. Plus they made sure the other kids were looked after and supported on days when we were both with Emily.”
Joanne says returning home from treatment has been tough at times, but often a phone call to Sally and a visit helped to keep the stress levels down.
“We have also really enjoyed the activities that take place at the Wellington Family Place and the support networks that the Foundation coordinates,” says Joanne.
“The continual support that we receive is absolutely overwhelming and as a family our unexpected journey would have just been so much tougher without The Child Cancer Foundation support.”
The road ahead
Emily is now post-transplant and after several months of travelling to Auckland for tests, her care is now at the outreach clinic in Wellington, where she has check-ups every three months. She is now back at school.
Joanne says Emily’s hair is growing back and she is recovering well, but can get very tired and pick up illnesses due to her compromised immune system.
“Emily is able to be back at school and her tiredness will ease as her new marrow grows and her body gets stronger.”
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.