Pulling Together as a Family

Since his diagnosis of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) in July 2016, 16-year-old Thomas has been supported every step of the way by his family and community.

“This cancer experience has bonded our already close-knit family even more closely together,” said Theresa, Thomas’ mum. “It has made us all very aware of how your life can change in an instant.”

The Children’s Cancer Foundation first met Thomas in 2017 at the Monash Children’s Hospital, where he proudly sang us his football club’s theme song.

“Thomas loves going to the football and watching his beloved Saints play,” Theresa said.

“We all used to go to the football together as a family, which we could no longer do when he was first diagnosed. Fortunately we are back enjoying the footy again.”

Thomas is the youngest of his three siblings – Sean (27), Josephine (22) and Grace (21) – and it is their visits, as well as those from his friends and school community that have helped him deal with the long hospital stays.

“At first his siblings were very upset and worried, but they pulled themselves together and were very strong and supportive to Thomas,” Theresa said.

Thomas had been showing signs of extreme fatigue and was finding it hard to walk, as his legs were very sore. Theresa took him to his paediatrician who sent him off immediately for a blood test.

“Before we had even arrived home, I got a call from the paediatrician telling me to take him to hospital immediately. We were told the following day that he had leukaemia,” Theresa said.

“We were all very shocked and frightened but the staff at the hospital were amazing and with their understanding and support we felt ready to pull together as a family and fight the cancer all together.”

“We were told at the time of Thomas’ diagnosis that it was going to be a long journey, but that the success rate of curing ALL was extremely high,” she said.

Thomas has spent much of the last two years in hospital, with his longest stretches being six weeks when he first diagnosed and then eleven weeks after his second phase of chemotherapy (delayed intensification).

“During delayed intensification Thomas went into septic shock and spent five days in intensive care. That was a very scary time for us,” Theresa said.

Thomas has enjoyed many of the activities on offer at hospital, including the music therapy service, funded by the Children’s Cancer Foundation.

“He just loves music therapy and many days you would hear singing and laughing coming from his room,” Theresa said.

Thomas is currently in maintenance and will hopefully finish his treatment at the end of the year. He is attending school for a few hours three days a week and wants to get back to his favourite subject, drama, where “he loves being on the stage and singing and dancing.”

Over their two-year cancer treatment journey, Theresa and Vincent have met many amazing children and families.

“The strength and courage displayed by the children never ceases to amaze me – they are truly warriors,” Theresa said.

“To any family that has just found out their child has cancer, please try and stay positive,” she said.

These are some of the things that helped Theresa stay positive:

  • Talk to other parents – it’s a great source of comfort
  • Vent your feelings to the social worker
  • Leave the hospital and go for a walk to get some fresh air
  • Take advantage of the services provided to the parents
  • Look after yourself and try to get some rest

Thank you to Theresa for sharing Thomas' story with the Children's Cancer Foundation.