Dear Diary, Does the Easter bunny come to hospitals?
2017 National Ambassador Darcie is peeking out through the window of the playhouse in the Auckland Family Place, trying to surprise our photographer and giggling like crazy.
Darcie’s Mum Cheryl sits nearby and comments that her cheeky personality is just one of the things she loves about her daughter. Darcie’s hair has started to grow back after her last round of chemo in July, and the family are cautiously optimistic about the positive scans that came through shortly afterwards, showing she is in remission.
Darcie spent six months in Christchurch Hospital away from her home in Dunedin, following a diagnosis of Burkitt’s Lymphoma in February 2016. Scans showed seven aggressive tumours invading her small, three-year-old body. Cheryl and Darcie’s father Steven were faced with information overload and decisions that had to be made. Although part of them just wanted to hurry up and start with treatment, they also couldn't believe what they were consenting to.
Cheryl says: “The treatment (chemo) was as scary as the cancer itself and especially its horrendous side-effects. One of the consultants described it as Darcie getting all of the ammunition they could throw at her.”
Cheryl says that Darcie's personality changed once the chemo started.
“She was scared of anyone and everyone who entered the room; then also moody and irrational from the steroids. This scared both my husband and I so much in the beginning, wondering if we would see our little girl’s infectious personality again.”Darcie's Mum, Cheryl
Visits from Darcie’s older brothers Harry (10) and Jessie (7), were one thing guaranteed to bring a smile to Darcie’s face. “Her face would just light up the second they walked in the door,” says Cheryl. Harry and Jessie stayed in Dunedin during her treatment, but along with Dad Steven – who had started a new job – they travelled to Christchurch to visit whenever possible. Darcie tolerated the last two rounds of chemo better than the first four and Cheryl says that since then her personality has blossomed again.
Quality time together at the Child Cancer Foundation holiday home in Arrowtown over Christmas provided a chance for the family to reconnect and have fun together, although Cheryl says she feels reluctant to say life is back to normal. “It was only this time last year that we were still in that “none the wiser” stage and soon our world was about to be pulled out from under our feet. It’s a weird time of the year at the moment, but Darcie has started doing full days at kindy, we are back in Dunedin and the next chapter has begun.”
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