The Swann Family Story
Losing a child is undeniably the hardest thing a family can experience. Sadly, approximately 20% of children diagnosed with cancer do not survive beyond three years of their diagnosis. Grayson Swann was one of those children.
Grayson was the only son of Angela and Miles Swann and brother to sisters Erika, Lexi and Izabella. He was diagnosed with T-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in August 2017 at the age of three and started receiving chemotherapy treatment almost immediately. A month into his treatment his family suffered another blow. His younger sister Izabella started having seizures and she was diagnosed with epilepsy.
Says Miles: “When Grayson was diagnosed we were really worried. Then Izabella was diagnosed with epilepsy. It was a dark time for the family and we felt quite overwhelmed.”
Izabella was prescribed medication, which helped prevent her seizures, and Grayson continued with his treatment. He responded well and was able to go home to Waiuku with his family between treatments.
In March 2018 things changed. Grayson was sick and his temperature soared to 40 degrees. Angela and Miles called an ambulance but struggled to get Grayson to Starship Hospital quickly through peak hour traffic. At the hospital it was discovered that Grayson’s port was infected. It was removed and Grayson was hospitalised for two weeks.
Grayson stabilised and the decision was taken to give him chemotherapy before he was sent home. Within a few hours of having the chemotherapy, Grayson’s temperature started climbing. His blood was tested and a fungal infection was detected.
Grayson’s condition deteriorated rapidly. Over the Easter weekend, he suffered a stroke, which affected the left side of his body. He was put on a ventilator but his heart gave out. He died on Easter Monday with his parents at his side. He was just a month away from moving into the maintenance phase of his treatment.
While devastating, Angela and Miles consider themselves fortunate to have been able to be by their son’s side when he died. Not long after Grayson’s death their Family Support Coordinator Collette invited them to attend a bereaved parents weekend. The couple were initially hesitant but decided to attend.
Says Angela: “It turned out to be a really powerful experience for us as there were parents at different stages of their grief which allowed us to view grief from different perspectives. We realised we weren’t alone and it gave us hope that we would eventually be able to get through our loss.”
The couple have attended several bereaved parents weekends since then and also attend a monthly support group. They have become good friends with some of the parents they met and are in turn starting to support other parents and families. Miles explains that he goes the extra mile to be supportive of other fathers who often struggle to open up about their loss.
Says Miles: “While we are all part of a ‘club’ which no one wants to be part of, I feel privileged to belong to such an amazing group of people. There’s a sense of camaraderie which helps us get through the hard times.”
The family’s relationship with their church, Collette and the Child Cancer Foundation has also helped the family. Says Angela: Today, the family is doing as well as can be expected. Angela recently received a sewing machine after applying to the Foundation for a Personal Development Grant so she can make and sell Remembrance Teddy Bears. She’s already made a bear for her daughters which incorporates a piece of Grayson’s clothing which they love. Angela and Miles would also like to become facilitators so that they can officially assist others at bereavement events.
Says Angela and Miles: “We do of course miss Grayson but we also feel empowered through the amazing support we’ve received to share our experience and help others through their loss. It feels like the right thing to do.”
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