Isla's mum Sarah had taken her four year old daughter to the doctor beacuse she had been snoring and experiencing pain in her knees for some weeks.
Sarah and her husband Darrin had put it down to enlarged adenoids and growing pains. Other than her snoring and knee pain, Isla was a happy, healthy child. She was in day care, attending school orientation and had been to swimming lessons the day before the shocking news came.
Darrin recalls that moment two years ago as if it were yesterday. The GP had asked to see him and his wife as soon as possible. “When we saw our GP,” he says, “we knew it wasn’t good news and I remember what she said like it was five minutes ago: ‘Isla has leukaemia, you have to go to Randwick tonight, they are expecting you.’”
They rushed their desperately ill child to Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick that night and Isla’s treatment began the next day.
Isla had been diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia: a particularly aggressive form of leukaemia. The next few weeks, then months, would be a blur of tests and treatments. Isla’s physical appearance changed dramatically from the steroids. Her family’s life was turned upside down. Sarah and Darrin, both police officers, returned to work after about a month working opposite shifts so one could be with Isla 24 hours a day and the other with their other four daughters as much as possible.
Although Isla is still having treatment, Sarah and Darrin recall the first nine months as especially scary, intense and traumatic: emotionally and physically for Isla in particular, and the whole family.
Isla particularly feared the general anaesthetics and having her chemotherapy port accessed to allow the chemotherapy to be administered. “We are realistic, but optimistic,” says Darrin. “We know that we will live in fear of every bruise, of every ache and pain dreading the leukaemia has come back, but we have hope that she will be cured. And we have that hope because of the study and research of Children’s Cancer Institute. We have been amazed by the determination, compassion and passion by everyone involved in the Zero Childhood Cancer program to achieve a 100% cure rate for children’s cancer.”