Tayla and Brandon are not your typical siblings. Tayla is a keen horse rider and swimmer and Brandon enjoys basketball…
Christmas is normally a magical time spent at home surrounded by family and friends. Sadly for many children who are sick or hurt, Christmas will be spent in Princess Margaret Hospital receiving on-going treatment and undergoing crucial procedures.
While many families were preparing for a happy and festive Christmas, Harlem’s was being told he has neuroblastoma, the most common solid cancer tumour that almost exclusively affects children.
“We were given Harlem’s diagnosis on 23 December 2016,” explains his mum Renee.
“Harlem had been feeling unwell with tummy pains. We were lying on the couch and I was rubbing his tummy to soothe him when I felt a lump. Our GP tried to examine him but Harlem was crying so much that he was referred for an ultrasound. When our GP received the results he sent us straight to PMH.
Nothing prepares you to be told your child has cancer. Receiving the news right on Christmas and only a couple of weeks before Harlem’s second birthday, on 4 January, was completely overwhelming
“Over the past 11 months, Harlem has undergone five rounds of chemotherapy, an operation to remove the majority of his tumour, stem cell retrieval, mega-chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant, 20 rounds of radiotherapy under general anaesthetic and two rounds of immunotherapy, with four rounds still to go.
“When he is having immunotherapy, Harlem has to be in PMH for two weeks, with a three week break in-between each round. That means we will be spending another Christmas in hospital,” dad, Jhai picks up the story.
“We have two older boys, Soul who is nine and Leilyn who is seven. As we did last year, the five of us will spend Christmas day in PMH opening presents and making the best of things.
“We are really lucky to have a great network of family and friends around us too. They will all step in to help make sure that the kids have the best Christmas they can. I don’t know where we would be without their love and support.
There are many families at PMH who don’t have people around them to help out. It’s really sad to see and I don’t know how they manage
“The staff at PMH are incredible. They do all they can to care for our babies who are fighting cancer, which is our main focus. But they also look out for the rest of the family as well. From little things like putting up Christmas decorations and making sure Santa makes a visit, to bigger things like taking the time to explain exactly what treatment Harlem is getting and why.
“Having to spend a second Christmas in hospital isn’t great – we may also have Harlem’s third birthday in PMH too. But we know it’s the best place for him to be because of the amazing care he is getting.
“Having spent so much time at PMH over the past year we now understand how important donations to the hospital are. They pay for all sorts of things from fun activities for the kids through to really important things like funding doctors and special equipment.
I’d like to thank everyone who has helped in the past. But there’s still more that is needed. Unfortunately cancer, and all the other illnesses kids at PMH have, doesn’t stop for Christmas
“There are new families like ours coming onto the ward every day. We need people to keep donating to help PMH care for these kids and hopefully one day find a cure for these horrible diseases.”