How could this happen to us

James, Olivia and Kirsty
James, Olivia and Kirsty

Everyday I woke up believing I was having a terrible dream and that my surroundings weren’t real. I thought I would wake up and find myself in my bed at home in Canberra and Olivia would come bounding into our room at any minute, full of her usual smiles and giggles. That wasn’t to be. I can’t imagine going through anything worse than this. Words can’t really express how I feel. I just can’t imagine a pain worse than this. As a mother, you feel an overwhelming responsibility to love and protect your children. However, when you are faced with a situation such as this, you feel so vulnerable and out of control. It’s difficult to come to terms with the fact that there is absolutely nothing we can do to change this situation. There is no cure for cancer – it’s completely in God’s hands.

All I could think about was unfair this was to happen to my baby. No child deserves this. Cancer is extremely rare in children. Only about 600 children are diagnosed annually in Australia. I had read that only 1 in 100,000 children are diagnosed with Neuroblastoma but Olivia’s doctor pointed out that it is actually more rare than that. What makes all of this harder to believe is that this has happened to us. I thought that we had already been through one of life’s worst experiences with my own battle with cancer during and after my pregnancy with Olivia. As a result, Olivia had her own battle to fight when she was born 10 weeks prematurely. I’ve always felt that Olivia was born to help get me through my cancer – she is my angel, my saviour. She gave me another focus and the strength to get through it all. Now I have to help her get through her own battle with cancer.

I didn’t know how I could explain all of this to Olivia. How do you explain to your two and a half year old that she has a terrible illness and that she will require months of medical treatment to get her better? I thought that she would hate us for this. I thought that she would think we were taking her to hospital to get chemo that would only make her sick, especially since the cancer was not making her feel unwell. We told Olivia that she was very sick and that she had some bad lumps in her head and back. We also told her that she needed to have special medicine for a long time to make the lumps go away. It was explained to her that the special medicine might make her feel sick and that her hair would fall out. We reassured her that her hair would grow back. Olivia seemed to take all of this news fairly well. She sometimes says to us “I’ve got lumps in my head but the special medicine will make it better” and “My hair might grow back” and we always reassure her that it definitely will.We are all remaining hopeful and positive. The only way we seem to be coping at the moment is by taking one day at a time. That’s all we can do. If we start thinking about the future, it’s very easy to feel like you’re sinking into a big hole. From the beginning, we told Olivia that she was going to kick this illness in the butt. So we now have a motto – ‘Kick it in the butt!’. When Olivia says it, she punches the air – it’s very cute!

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