Zack's Dad's Story
28 Nov 2011
Fathers are less inclined to talk about the cancer journey than mothers who are more likely to get together and chat. Palmerston North Dad Glen very kindly agreed to share his experiences during his son Zack’s journey.
Our family’s journey began back in April 2008, two months before we ever heard the words “your son has a brain tumour.” Zack went from being your typical happy nine-month-old baby just starting to walk around holding furniture, laughing and playing with his two-year-old sister Clare, to needing to be held nearly 24 hours a day. Melanie and I were getting very worried about Zack’s worsening condition. Working all day and taking care of Zack at night to give Mel a break was starting to take its toll, emotionally we were both very tired.
On the 6th of June while away on a business trip, I woke, looked at my phone and noticed I had 10 missed calls and a couple of voice messages. Mel had called to tell me Zack was in Palmerston North Hospital, that he was very sick and having seizures. When I called back my father-in-law Colin answered and told me what they had found.
Zack was diagnosed with a Choroid Plexus Papilloma tumour in the left lateral ventricle in his brain. It had most likely been growing in his head since he was a baby and it had caused his Choroid Plexus to over produce cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) increasing the pressure in his head. Hydrocephalus, (water on the brain), had been making him sick.
Zack required urgent surgical attention so he was transferred on the first “LIfe Flight” available to Starship that same morning. My two hour wait at Starship for Zack and Mel was horrible, I still remember it taking a couple of phone calls to my Dad to just say “Zack has a brain tumour.” I could not see that day having a happy ending. That first day was very intense, I met Zack and Mel at Starship at 10.30am. It was a big shock seeing our son on a stretcher full of tubes and lines with monitors beeping away, I felt very helpless. We met Zack’s neurosurgeon Mr Andrew Law at 11am and found out that Zack was going into surgery straight away. At 1pm I gave Zack a kiss as he was wheeled off to theatre, it seemed to take forever but at 7pm we got the call to say that Zack was back in PICU (Paediatric Intensive Care Unit).
We soon found out that this day was just the start of the challenges that lay ahead for Zack. Over the next 12 weeks we faced many hurdles. Post-surgery Zack got a blood clot in his brain leaving him with little right sided movement and also peripheral vision loss and the hydrocephalus continued so he needed a shunt (brain drain) to remove excess CSF. Then we found out he needed six months of chemotherapy. I have always tried to keep a realistic “expect the worst, hope for the best” attitude but once you hear “your child has cancer” it tends to knock you around a bit.
Mel was four months pregnant when we started Zack’s treatment, so I would travel to Starship with them for all of the chemotherapy rounds. When we ended up in Palmerston North hospital with neutropenia, Mel would do the day shift and I would go straight from work to do the night shift. Being involved in all of Zack’s treatment has made it easier to cope with all he has been through. Because of complications with Zack’s hydrocephalus we still spend lots of time in hospital. Having to balance wanting to look after Zack when he is sick and working to keep an income coming in can be very stressful, I still find leaving Zack and Mel in Hospital tough. Throughout all the ups and downs Zack has taken everything in his stride and today he is a happy four year old laughing and playing with his sisters. We are very proud of them also, Clare is now five and Hannah three in December. When Zack gets sick they never complain when we ship them off too Nana and Poppa’s - they just want to know if Zack will be all right and if he is coming home soon.
We are very grateful to the support we have had from The Child Cancer Foundation and our regional Family Support coordinator Robyn Booker. Robyn has supported us through some pretty tough times, she is amazing, and the biggest thanks has to be to our family and friends who supported us through our/Zack’s cancer journey.
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