A Little Fighter

In June 2016, three month old Brooke was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme, an aggressive brain cancer.

When their happy little girl suddenly stopped breathing, Jess and Brent, Brooke’s parents, rushed her straight to the emergency department. After several trips to emergency, doctors finally arranged a CT scan.

What they found was shattering: a tumour “that was nearly half the size of her head – the doctors were surprised that she still had mobility and a quality of life,” Brent recalls.

Two days later, Brooke had her first surgery. “It was 14 hours, but it felt like weeks,” Jess recounts. “They said there may be complications, because the tumour was so big. I really struggled at that time. But when she came out, I looked into her eyes and my baby was still there.”

A few weeks later, Brooke started her treatment at Monash Children's Hospital.

“The first six months with a baby are so hard, but we never thought we would have to get her through brain surgery and chemotherapy. We were trying to learn what calms her down, what makes her happy, but we couldn’t pick her up because we were too scared we would pull out a tube that was keeping her alive. We lost that time with Brooke, it just breaks my heart,” said Jess.

 “My initial reaction to the diagnosis was just tears all the time, I was so sad that anything like that could happen to a little baby,” said Brent.

“It’s tough” adds Jess, “but I think kids are tougher. They’re just so amazing and strong and that helps you to be strong for them. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. It certainly changes your perspective on life and makes you realise what’s important.”

Brent agrees: “It’s really the little things that mean so much more now. It could be anything, like someone gives you a coffee, and it’s the best thing in the world. And every little bit that we can give back, might help someone somewhere. We do what we can.”

Now 21 months old, Brooke has gone through several operations, 16 rounds of intensive chemotherapy and 2.5 weeks of radiation.

“We are doing the Beaded Journey for her so she can see everything she has been through,” said Jess.

The Beaded Journey – funded by the Children’s Cancer Foundation since 2008 – starts with Brooke’s name in beads, then special beads representing her diagnosis and a bead for each procedure or milestone throughout her treatment.

”You can see there was a scan, chemotherapy, blood transfusion – it’s her whole journey. We had to put an extension on it, she has so many beads. It has grown to be nearly three metres now.”

With over 100 blood transfusions and long chemotherapy rounds, Brooke has spent weeks at a time in hospital. To give her a break during treatment, she takes part in Music Therapy, a service funded by the Children’s Cancer Foundation since 2003 to promote an environment of creativity and expression and to help children cope with the many medical procedures.

“Music Therapy is fantastic,” said Brent. “It gives her a break from feeling that she’s locked in the cot when we are stuck at hospital for weeks.”

Jess agrees: “Brooke loves music therapy, and gets all excited when they give her drums. It just makes her whole day! She’s always listening to music now and she gets super excited when you play her favourite song.”

In January 2018, with just two rounds of chemotherapy to go, Brooke was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia, in addition to Glioblastoma Multiforme. This news was devastating for Brooke’s family.

Sadly, Brooke passed away on Wednesday, 21 March 2018. 

Jess and Brent cherished every moment with Brooke, her smile and laughter filling every room.

Thank you Jess and Brent for sharing Brooke’s journey with the Children’s Cancer Foundation.