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“Lara was always the child who never sat still or stopped talking.”
For those who knew her best, it quickly became clear that Lara wasn’t her bright bubbly self, back in July 2021.
“Lara was always the child who never sat still or stopped talking,” Lara’s mum Stacey says. “She loves life, and it was the changes in her personality that alerted us that something was wrong.”
“She was more tired than normal, and she was complaining of leg pain. At first, I put it down to growing pains, but then she started getting nose bleeds and a couple of days before her diagnosis, her skin started to go yellow.”
Stacey’s nursing background warned her something definitely wasn’t right so she took Lara to their local GP in Orange NSW. The blood test results arrived six hours later and confirmed their worst fears.
“The paediatric team and haematologist were expecting us at the hospital. We needed to go straight there, so we did. When we got there, three doctors sat opposite us. ‘She has leukaemia. Cancer.’ That’s all I heard. It came as a very big shock and was really overwhelming.”
Stacey was told to pack her bags immediately. Just 12 hours later she, Lara and her husband Matt, were on a plane headed for The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. To make things even harder, COVID-19 restrictions had just been reintroduced across NSW, meaning Stacey and Matt had to leave their two young boys behind in Orange with Matt’s parents.
Things moved quickly when Lara arrived at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. She was taken for a bone marrow biopsy, had a central line inserted and started on a high dose of steroids. After seven days, she started on a course of chemotherapy that Lara’s doctors said would likely last for up to nine months.
Stacey says despite the toll that treatment took on Lara, the team at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead went out of their way to make the experience as comfortable as possible.
“The hospital became like our home for a while. Lara’s chemo was intense, and it was really awful on her body, but I don’t look back at it as a negative time. Everyone was on top of her care all the time.
“We are so thankful to Lara’s oncologist, Dr Luciano Dalla-Pozza (Head of the Cancer Centre for Children at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead). We were so lucky to have him and there are not enough words to describe what we feel for him.
“All the nurses on the ward were amazing. They were practically fighting to look after Lara each day.
“Lara also had people who did physio and music therapy who regularly helped brighten her day. That all made life so much easier.”
In FY 20/21, donations made to Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation – big and small - helped support 14 Child Life, Music and Art Therapy positions. It’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, that these staff were able to provide positive patient experiences for sick kids in hospital like Lara.
Just as her doctors had predicted, Lara was healthy and strong enough to go home with her family after nine months of treatment. Stacey says she was overwhelmed with relief.
“I just felt so thankful to have my little girl, and grateful to the team at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead who cared for her. Without them, I know she would not be here today.”
Today, as their young family prepares for another exciting addition in March 2023, Stacey’s sharing her daughter’s story in the hopes it will inspire others to donate to make a difference to all sick kids.
By joining Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation’s Movement of Many, you can help ensure sick kids across NSW - from the inner cities to outer suburbs, regional, rural and beyond - receive the best possible healthcare, no matter where, no matter what.
Donate to make a difference today.