Joel’s story

Joel manages to make everyone laugh with his fabulous sense of humour, despite what he is going through.

Just before this happy, fun, cheeky little boy’s fourth birthday, he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

After being diagnosed with a viral illness, having sporadic temperatures of 40C for no reason, and complaining of aches in his legs and not being able to walk, the family’s GP ordered an abdominal ultrasound to find out what was happening to Joel.

Mum Laurette and dad Dudley are both nurses, so are well-versed in handling all sorts of medical situations. But, it’s completely different when it’s your own child.

“The drive to the paediatrician’s room was awful."

“As nurses we knew that an abdominal ultrasound where no result was verbalised meant it was inevitable that our beautiful three-and-a-half year old had cancer of some form.

“The paediatrician ordered more specific blood tests and then informed us that Joel possibly had acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.”

It would be a very long journey. And there was no time to prepare – the journey began that moment they were told of Joel’s diagnosis.

“Within one hour my best friend was with my two girls, Joel’s older sisters Kasey and Georgie, and I was at Townsville Hospital with Joel,” Laurette recalled.

“He required urgent platelet transfusion and red cell infusion to keep him alive and well until we were transferred to Brisbane for urgent oncology treatment."

Just more than 48 hours since learning of the cancer, Joel and his mum were on their way to Queensland Children’s Hospital for treatment.

Joel faced everything with a brave face and attitude, but missed his sisters and dad, who were still in Townsville.

“Joel was in hospital since going to Brisbane in March 2016, he was depressed and so sad,” his mum said. Joel’s sisters Kasey, then 7, and Georgie, then 5, arrived at the hospital late one night after driving with their dad for 15 hours.

Joel sat up with a smile and said: “My girls are here”. His family was together and he had his sisters there with him – that was what he needed to push through his first round of chemotherapy.

“We chose to relocate the entire family to Brisbane for what turned out to be 10 months in total."

“The impact to our family financially has been huge. This is not a normal situation, and from day one I said to my husband `this will go on for so long that we need to tell the truth and try to be normal’.  We surrendered all investments to achieve this, and now we can say that money doesn’t matter but time with these kids does, especially in that situation.”

“Joel has ongoing chemotherapy treatment in a three month roll-on plan from November 2016 until May 2019. It involves a lumbar puncture in Brisbane at the start of every three months, intrathecal chemotherapy, intravenous chemotherapy and a doctor review before all of this.

“Each month Joel receives intravenous chemotherapy daily and also steroid treatment each month, which contributes to difficult behaviour in day-to-day life.”

Laurette said the activities organised by Children’s Hospital Foundation were “priceless” – not just for Joel, but also his sisters.

“There is nothing on the planet like the art of distraction for a child and their family, and just to make someone laugh and smile."

Joel is one of 19 ambassadors for the Woolworths Regional Wall Tokens campaign.

By purchasing a $2 wall token from now until the end of September, you are helping fund equipment and programs in your local hospital, which help families like Joel’s through an emotional, stressful, and at times uncertain journey.

Woolworths Regional Wall Tokens is an opportunity to highlight some of the brave kids throughout Queensland and northern New South Wales, who you can help by purchasing a wall token.

Other ways you can help

Everything we do for sick and injured kids is made possible by the generosity and support of our donors, partners and the community.