Sophie’s story

How do you tell your three-year-old child they have cancer?

This is the devastating reality Kimberley and Simon had to face in 2014 when their daughter Sophie was diagnosed with neuroblastoma.

A urinary tract infection that never cleared up, followed by complaints of sore legs led Kimberley to demand scans be taken.

In a cruel twist of fate, those scans finally gave the family the answers they needed. But, sadly, those scans revealed a 7cm tumour, which doctors initially thought could be a Wilm’s tumour on her kidney. They were sent home with pain medication.

When Sophie’s condition deteriorated, and she became pale and would not eat, Kimberley and Simon rushed their daughter to the Emergency Department. Doctors had to deliver the shattering news – that Sophie would be diagnosed with neuroblastoma stage 4.

“By the time Sophie was officially diagnosed on 10 May 2014 the disease had spread through every bone and had essentially taken over her bone marrow,” Kimberley explained.

Sophie had just a 40 to 50 per cent chance of survival.

Her little body endured six cycles of chemotherapy, more scans, pain medication, many central lines and many nasogastric tubes inserted, and a biopsy to find out more about her cancer.

“This biopsy was examined locally and also sent to the Tumour Bank to access worldwide information about her particular cancer,” Kimberley recalled.

During the initial chemotherapy, Sophie’s weight dropped to 14kg and Sophie stopped talking. Doctors and nurses assured Sophie’s parents that she just needed time to process what was happening to her.

“One of the turning points at this time was meeting music therapist Dave. Sophie responded really well to music therapy and through Dave’s care through music, Sophie finally started to talk.

“Even to this day Sophie continues to have major anxiety when it comes to anything near her nose, and when having ongoing treatment and checkups.

The months following Sophie’s diagnosis involved major surgeries, the removal of tumours near her kidney, around her lower spine, and all around her adrenal gland. She also had her right kidney removed.

“By the time these operations were undertaken the tumours were pushing out of her bone marrow trying to escape and they were everywhere."
- Simon, Sophie's dad

“Thankfully the tumours had not spread into her spinal cord. This was important as it allowed her to then have a bone marrow transplant.”

Sophie’s bone marrow transplant coincided with the opening of the new Queensland Children’s Hospital. She was the first ever patient of Queensland Children’s Hospital and was captured by media leaving the old hospital by ambulance and arriving at the new one.

Close to eight months after Sophie was first admitted to hospital, and following chemotherapy, radiation, a bone marrow transplant, and immunotherapy, she was able to return home – just in time for Christmas.

Sophie has suffered side effects of treatment including hearing loss, anxiety and intellectual development delays, but is a happy seven-year-old attending school and visiting Queensland Children’s Hospital every four months for ongoing check-ups.  She still collects stuffed toys, which started in hospital where she would be the nurse to her Beanie Kids ‘patients’. She has a fear of needles and having her blood taken, but nurses and doctors have worked wonders for little Sophie – finding the best way to put her at ease.

“She is so independent. She started to give herself her own medicine with the assistance of the medical team and when she goes into Queensland Children’s Hospital outpatients for check-ups she goes into the nurses’ station on her own to have her observations taken and tells mum to stay out in the waiting room,” Simon said.

Kimberley was working for Woolworths at the time of Sophie’s diagnosis and shared that Woolworths had been very supportive of her and the family while Sophie underwent treatment. Woolworths allowed Kimberley to take extra time off without pay and held numerous fundraisers for the family and all children in hospital.

“Before I was an oncology parent, I used to sell the Woolworths tokens at work but did not really understand the impact that these tokens had."

“Now, I have a new perspective and appreciate how valuable every single token sold is and what that token means to families staying in hospital. I consider these tokens life-changing, and every customer buying a token is helping to pay for something really special – treatment, equipment, research, or entertainment that could change a life.”

Sophie 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 Sophie’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.