Lucy’s story

‘’I can do chemo again, but I can’t lose my hair again.”

Those are the heartbreaking words 13-year-old Lucy said to her mum, after being told the cancer she had battled and beaten years earlier had returned.

Lucy was 9 years old when she battled so bravely through chemotheraphy after being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

Mum Julie and dad Roger feared the worst, but always hoped for the best. Their positive attitude rubbed off on Lucy who fought so bravely for more than two-and-a-half years.

For Julie it was especially difficult learning of her daughter’s diagnosis towards the end of 2013, because, she knew the very possibility of what this cancer could do to her little girl.

“My cousin died at age five of the same condition and it always worried me."

“When Lucy got sick she actually reminded me of her. I still couldn’t believe it when they told me.” Julie recognised something was wrong with her only daughter when she was pale, tired all the time and when her legs and hip gave out while they were on a family holiday.

Lucy – by the time she turned 12 – had undergone 17 operations, including regular lumbar punctures, insertion and removal of ports and three chest drains, had multiple fevers and infections, had four blood transfusions and two platelet transfusions. Her lung collapsed – but it not known whether this is a result of the cancer or the chemotherapy.

On top of that, Lucy lost her gorgeous hair three times between her first chemotherapy in December 2013 and her last treatment in May 2016, just two weeks before her 12th birthday.

Lucy missed a year of school and lived away from home for nine months.

“I missed the dogs and the chooks at home and I missed my friends,” Lucy recalled. And, while surgery was daunting at first, sadly, Lucy got used to it.

Life started to return to normal after treatment – the family returned home to Jimboomba, Lucy had returned to school, and was having regular monthly blood tests and three-to-six monthly appointments with her oncologist.

At the beginning of November 2017 – four years after Lucy had first been diagnosed – she attended Queensland Children’s Hospital for a routine appointment with the oncologist just a day after having a routine blood test at Jimboomba.

“Her oncologist did all the usual physical checks and asked all the routine questions,” Julie recalled. “Then the oncologist mentioned a problem with her blood count, so asked if we would get another one done at the hospital and wait for the result.

“Naturally we waited for the result and went back in to see the oncologist who said that the blood test results were much the same as the one two days previous and suggested we book her in for bone marrow aspirate the following day – Tuesday, Melbourne Cup Day.”

Two days later, Julie and Roger received the worst news possible – their daughter, now 13, had relapsed. The cancer was back, and Lucy was going to have to fight for her life for a second time.

“The worst day of my life was telling her what the oncologist had said,” Julie recalled. “We both hugged and cried.

“We were warned it would be more intense and would hit her harder than first time around. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she would be admitted to hospital more this time.”

Doing everything again meant this time, Lucy and her parents knew what to expect. Some of the surgeons, doctors and nurses were the same as those who so wonderfully cared for Lucy the first time.

“The consultant went through the paperwork with us and explained it fully, so Lucy could understand. With her being 13 years of age this time, unlike the first time when she was 9, Lucy got to sign her own consent form and Roger signed ours,” Julie said.

“A few minutes later I accompanied her to the changing room to change into a hospital gown and then walked her into theatre to start things rolling again and left her in the surgeon’s capable hands once more.”

When Lucy returned to the ward after her surgery she went to room 2 – the same room her friend who passed away spent a lot of her time. “We could feel her presence with us,” Julie said.

With chemotherapy came associated battles – the first cycle Lucy experienced low blood pressure; with the second cycle Lucy endured vomiting, high temperatures, weight loss, weight gain, and eye pains.

“At the end of her third cycle, it was discovered that all the treatment she had received hadn’t made any difference."

Lucy would need a bone marrow transplant.

After several stressful weeks to find the right chemotherapy drug for Lucy while she waited for the transplant, finally there was some good news – her bone marrow aspirate came back with No Evidence of Disease.

Lucy then went through days of testing pre-transplant – including on her 14th birthday – while Julie and Roger prepared clothes and other items for the isolation period, and school friends made a surprise visit before the transplant in June this year.

Since November last year, Lucy has spent 144 days in Queensland Children’s Hospital. She is out of hospital but had to live close by for six months post-transplant.

Lucy will require a bone marrow aspirate every four weeks for 12 months to check for any relapse again.

Lucy 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 Lucy’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.