Battling Childhood Cancer in the Bush - Children's Cancer Foundation

When 16-year-old Kasey had a sore knee in February of 2016, she thought it was just a mild niggling injury from netball training. In June that same year, a collision during a game landed her in Swan Hill hospital for an X-ray. It was there a doctor noticed a spongy growth on Kasey's thigh bone. Concerned, the doctor instructed the family to drive to Melbourne as soon as possible for further investigation.

Life changed in an instant

"I was diagnosed on 12 June. After that, everything went so fast. We went back home for 24 hours, picked up some clothes and things, then the next thing we were moving to the city full-time. It was tough saying goodbye to dad and my brother Leonard", said Kasey.

"It was a complete shock" ~ Kasey.

Kasey and her mum Sharon left their farm in Wakool on the Victorian New South Wales border and arrived at The Royal Children's Hospital on June 13. A week later, tests revealed the diagnosis that would turn their world upside down. Kasey had osteosarcoma — a type of bone cancer that typically occurs in people under 25, and more commonly in males. 

While processing this devastating news, Kasey's parents Sharon and Robin were also dealing with other tough, unforeseen decisions about how to best manage their finances, the farm and their family. 

 "The whole family was shocked", Sharon, Kasey's mum.

"I immediately resigned from my position as Teacher Director at Wakool Preschool to focus 100% on Kasey”. But the family still had the farm to run. So, the decision was made that Robin should stay home and manage their 1,500-acre rice and beef property, while also allowing Leonard to stay in Wakool and go to high school as normal.

Tests, surgery and treatment become the new normal

Kasey reflects, "I had many tests, a couple of small operations, and two rounds of chemotherapy before I had major leg surgery. They also put in a port, a tube that allows me to get my medicine intravenously without damaging my veins and other organs”. 

The surgery took place in late August the same year. A team of orthopaedic and plastic surgeons worked for over seven hours to remove the tumour and 12 centimetres of the femur that they replaced with a mega-prosthesis. The prosthesis is supported by two titanium pins that almost run the length of Kasey’s leg.

Kasey managed to get around wearing a knee brace and Tubigrip on her leg, but her day-to-day life was far from easy.

"I was in hospital most days throughout the week and often felt sick because of the drugs, so it was pretty hard." Kasey said. 

"But activities like music and art therapy were offered to us which made things more fun — that's where I first heard about the Children's Cancer Foundation".

Kasey also took part in The Beaded Journey, funded by the Children's Cancer Foundation. "You get a different bead to put on a string to represent each step of your journey. I liked it because it gave me a chance to talk about everything in a less confronting way, and helped highlight the positive experiences."

Kasey's Beaded Journey served as a powerful visual reminder of every treatment and milestone she endured throughout her treatment.

Missing family and home

Back in Wakool, Kasey's dad and brother balanced the demands of running the farm with visiting Kasey. Kasey couldn’t go home often because she had to stay close to the hospital for treatment. The chemotherapy made her feel sick so travel was difficult. Kasey’s Dad and brother Leonard came down to Melbourne as often as they could.

Kasey’s brother Calan was getting married in Geelong in December that year, and Kasey wanted to be there with her family more than ever. "My doctors helped me by planning my chemotherapy around Cal and Cerryn's big day." 

Kasey reflected on advice she got from a mum on the ward whose child also had cancer. 'Hold on to whatever you've got, whether it's religion or positive thinking because it will make your beliefs stronger in the end. And just because you've got cancer doesn't mean you have to be sad all the time and stop doing all the things you like to do'.

Kasey and Sharon were humbled by the kindness of everyone involved in their family's cancer journey. "The doctors and nurses were amazing — they always made time to explain what was happening and include us in the treatment." said Sharon, "Our community at home, our medical team in Melbourne, and the charities who've supported us were so incredible. We're incredibly grateful."

Thank you to Kasey for sharing her story with the Children's Cancer Foundation.


Raising Funds, One Bale at a Time

Many rural families, like Kasey and Sharon, travel great distances for their cancer treatment. This puts financial and emotional pressure on children and parents who often see their family separated geographically throughout treatment as one caregiver travels to the hospital and another stays to manage the home, farm or other children. 

Crop and grain packaging specialists Tapex Agri have recognised this hardship in their rural communities and in the summer of 2017/18, began a campaign where $5 from for every roll of Trioplus ™ Yellow silage film sold, goes to the Children's Cancer Foundation’s family support services. To date, they have raised over $10,000 for the Foundation.

Susan Taylor, Tapex Agri Marketing Manager, said: "We are proud to partner with the Children's Cancer Foundation to support their vital work. Farmers got behind our initial campaign, and all of our Children's Cancer Foundation Trioplus™ Yellow silage film sold out.

This story has been updated and was originally published in March 2018.
Kasey, Osteosarcoma patient