Lachlan: "Facing the enemy within"

At age 9, Lachlan faced probably his greatest adversary in life – cancer. He was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL), a type of cancer in which the bone marrow produces too many immature white blood cells.

For many patients the fight against cancer is often likened to a war. For Lachlan, it was perceived as the enemy within.  He explains “When you’re facing something that is trying to kill you, I believe there are two ways you can go about it – you can stand up and face your enemy or you can back down and accept defeat. I carried that motto throughout my treatment. I would visualise the chemotherapy doing everything it could to stop the cancer from attacking my body, because when the cancer knows it can’t spread any further it attacks your thoughts. It tries to make you as weak-minded as possible, making you ask questions like ‘Am I dying?’ ‘Is this medicine working?’ and ‘Why me?’ I found that being a strong-minded person, with a positive attitude, was half the key to me beating cancer.”  

Lachlan went through 3 years of treatment. There were extensive visits to the hospital and a lot of medicine, which he struggled with at the beginning but over time it became routine. “On short stays it was good to see familiar faces and I always felt reassured that I was in good hands. But on long stays, my attitude became much more negative because of the long, lonely days on the ward.”  

Through the tough days Lachlan brought along comforting mementos from home like his blanket or pillow.  “Hobbies helped keep my mind active and focused on something other than the cancer I think it made me grow up a lot quicker because I had to deal with something most kids wouldn’t have to worry about and at an age when your main priorities are having fun with your friends at school and playing sport on the weekend. It’s interesting to compare the priorities I had at that age and the priorities my friends had.”

The Children’s Cancer Foundation has been an active advocate in funding programs that support the emotional wellbeing of children with cancer and their families. From 2007-16 the Foundation has invested $4.5 million in psych-oncology services at The Royal Children’s Hospital and Monash Children’s Hospital. As a patient during this period, Lachlan benefited from our support. By financing psych-oncology staff for many years, the Foundation demonstrated the importance of these services which today are embedded into hospital operational budgets, ensuring children, families and staff have access to these invaluable services throughout their cancer journey.  

Currently, the Foundation funds Music Therapy and Art Therapy programs to help promote an environment of creativity and expression for children’s well-being, and continues to support a psychologist to help children cope with issues associated with their diagnosis and treatment.    

Lachlan believes a strong mental attitude was his ammunition for beating cancer. Now aged 16 and 5 years in remission, Lachlan has a few extra battle scars, as well as much more experience than most young men his age.  “The diagnosis, treatment and financial hardships that my family and I faced together have taught me one thing: there are no guarantees in life and not everything is as it seems.”

His strength of character will bear Lachlan well as he tackles VCE this year. “I am so grateful that I’ve come out of this alive and I can’t wait to take on the coming years.”

To learn more about Lachlan’s story, read his full interview.

Thank you Lachlan for sharing your story with us.

Lachlan playing football