HEALTH

Make a Wish Foundation: Making a child’s cancer diagnosis a little easier

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This Christmas marks the fourth anniversary since 7 year old Jarvis was diagnosed with cancer. Make a Wish foundation has been valuable in offering joy, hope and the chance to feel like a regular kid, for many children like Jarvis.

#WorstChristmasEver

It was only a couple of days before Christmas 2014 when Jarvis’ parents took him to the doctor for blood tests. He’d been feeling out of sorts, lethargic and falling asleep all the time, and they’d noticed bruises on his legs that weren’t healing.

Just two hours later, their GP rang and told them to go straight to the hospital where the team from Ward 3B were waiting. While their instincts told them something was wrong, the truth came crashing down as they arrived and saw the sign – Ward 3B was the children’s cancer ward.

At just four years old, Jarvis was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow.

The diagnosis came on Christmas Eve, and Jarvis started chemotherapy the same day.

For the whole family – Jo, Ben, Jarvis and his two little brothers – it quickly became the most desperate Christmas ever.

Every parent’s worst nightmare

Jo and Ben did their best to stay strong for their three boys – with their youngest just 16 weeks old at the time. However, Ben remembers feeling completely overwhelmed: “I was just walking through the ward, pushing the pram with the other kids, and it was all just a bit of a blur.”

In the months that followed, Jarvis began an intense course of medical treatment including daily chemotherapy and high dose steroids. However, the life-saving regime took a huge toll on his health, leaving him listless and often withdrawn. He gained around 40 percent of his body weight due to the steroids and was almost unrecognisable. His muscles also weakened to the point that his parents had to carry Jarvis between his bed at home and the hospital.

As Jo remembers, Jarvis hated going in for treatment. “He’d be crying and saying ‘please, don’t take me….’ He was old enough to know what was coming.”

Over the next three and a half years of treatment, Jarvis missed out on many of the things other kids might take for granted – from school and swimming lessons to birthday parties and playgrounds.

During this incredibly tough time, Jo and Ben felt they had to ‘bubble wrap’ their son.

His incredible wish

Through cancer support groups, Jo and Ben heard about Make-A-Wish® Australia and applied for a wish mid-2017. As a keen reader, Jarvis wished for a very special treehouse, much like the one in his favourite book, The 13-Story Treehouse.

As the #WishForce team quickly discovered, Jarvis’ treehouse had to be somewhere a young boy could escape his day-to-day cares, enjoy some quiet time, and let his imagination roam free. Of course, it also needed a veranda, a rock-climbing wall and its very own flying fox!

Construction began earlier this year, with Jarvis watching on excitedly as his vision came to life.

Today, visitors to the family’s home will find a two-storey treehouse taking pride of place in the backyard – with a good-natured seven-year-old playing with his brothers and friends inside.

Jarvis is now doing his best to put the years of cancer treatment behind him – and while it will be five more years of regular blood tests before he’s completely in the clear – thankfully, his chances of a full recovery are strong.

For Jo and Ben, the impact of their son’s wish journey is clear – it has allowed him to become ‘a regular kid’ again.

“Experiences like this give everyone hope and give kids who’ve missed out and faced a lot of adversity a bit of happiness. That’s very special – and so important,” says Ben.
Bake-A-Wish for kids like Jarvis

Each year, thousands of Australian children are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. For their families and the kids themselves, life is put on hold while they learn to cope with and in the best cases, beat their illness.

Which is why a wish is so important – with the power to calm, distract and inspire sick kids at the time they need it most.

You can help bring more incredible wishes to life in 2019 by joining Make-A-Wish Australia’s largest ongoing fundraising campaign, ‘Bake A Wish’.

It’s a piece of cake, and whether you choose to arrange a dinner party with family and friends or an afternoon tea – every dollar raised means more unique and life-changing wishes coming true for sick kids like Jarvis.

Visit www.bakeawish.org.au or call 1800 032 260 to find out more, pledge your support and access your free fundraising toolkit.

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