Walking into the Emergency Department at the Perth Children’s Hospital with their sick two-year-old daughter Amelia, Brianna and Russell felt…
After a busy term at school with swimming lessons and rugby practice, Bryce’s mum Charlean put her son’s lethargy and high fever down to exhaustion or a potential virus. However, on a family walk Bryce showed his mother a large lump under his arm and alarm bells rang. Having had both Charlean and her husband Craig’s mothers diagnosed with cancer in 2013, the thought of a third cancer diagnosis in 7 year old Bryce was simply unthinkable. Nervous and on-edge, Charlean took Bryce to their local GP who took a blood test and found that Bryce had had glandular fever at some point and also an adenovirus which explained his symptoms. The family breathed a sigh of relief.
However early in 2014, although Bryce’s energy had picked up and he was back to being his usual bubbly self, the lump under his arm had still not gone away.
“With both mine and Charlean’s mothers being diagnosed with cancer the year before, we just didn’t want to take any chances with that lump, so we took Bryce initially to Stirling Clinic for an ultrasound and they then referred us to Princess Margaret Hospital for another ultrasound and biopsy,” explains Craig.
“I took Bryce to Princess Margaret Hospital that morning in February, initially just for an ultrasound, and before I knew it, we were being jumped to the front of every queue. By the end of the day Bryce had had an ultrasound, chest x-ray and blood drawn and was told to come back the following week for a biopsy. It was very overwhelming, and the fact we were being put to the front of all the queues suggested that something definitely was not right.”
The next week, after his biopsy, Bryce was diagnosed with stage 3 Anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The diagnosis came as a shock for the tight-knit family who had emigrated from South Africa five years ago.
“To hear Bryce’s diagnosis, especially after Craig’s mother passed away from brain cancer the year before, was just impossible- we wondered how this could happen to our family, it just didn’t seem fair,” says Charlean.
Determined to keep Bryce and his older brother, Tristan’s spirits high, Craig and Charlean explained to Bryce that he simply had bad soldiers in his blood and was going to have to have wonderful, liquid gold medicine to ensure these enemies were killed off.
Bryce went into Princess Margaret Hospital for his first intensive chemotherapy session three days before his eighth birthday and was greeted with a very welcome barrage of presents and surprises that made his first hospital stay a positive and less-frightening experience.
“The support from the hospital, particularly Dr. Tom Walwyn and the Ward 3B nurses, was just incredible. We had so many questions and they were just amazing in answering them. To celebrate Bryce’s birthday in that way – we were just blown away by the generosity and care of everyone involved.”
Having come from South Africa, Charlean and Craig are even more grateful for the level of care they experienced at Princess Margaret Hospital.
“With my mother in hospital in Durban in 2013, you can see there’s such a difference in the level of care we have had at Princess Margaret Hospital – the staff just go that extra mile and really care about their patients” says Craig.
“We cannot thank the wonderful staff enough, particularly Dr. Tom Walwyn, for all their support and care throughout what was one of the toughest years of our lives. It’s incredible what they do each and every day for children like Bryce.”
Thankfully, Bryce’s little body responded well to his intensive chemotherapy sessions and by the 2nd session every bit of lymphoma in his body was gone meaning Bryce was declared in unconfirmed remission. Bryce finished the last of his six chemotherapy sessions on 15 June 2014 and after passing his six month follow up scans in December and his nine month follow up in March 2015, he is now officially in remission!