Christmas Day when your family is torn apart just doesn't feel like Christmas.Angela, Byron's mum
When 17-month-old Byron fell ill, parents Mick and Angela thought it was just a cold. Then lumps appeared on his neck, and his throat began to swell. Fearing mumps, Angela took him to hospital.
Angela and Byron stayed overnight at the local hospital after some x-rays and blood tests. Very early the next morning, a doctor woke Angela and said "we're sending you to the Royal Children's Hospital, Brisbane. Your son has leukaemia."
I replied, 'No, we came in for mumps. You've got the wrong child.'
First dose of chemo
Byron received his first dose of chemotherapy at the Royal Children's Hospital, Brisbane. Less than a day later, his body began shutting down - and doctors had no choice but to induce a medical coma.
We stood by feeling completely helpless. We were just reeling… in the blink of an eye our world had fallen apart.
Byron pulled through and began 12 months of intensive treatment, spending weeks at a time in hospital, with oral treatment at home in between. The impact was so profound he forgot how to walk, talk and eat.
Childhood cancer is currently treated with adult cancer drugs - because that's all that is available. The long-term side-effects can be devastating.
As Angela was pregnant, she wasn’t able to hold Byron, or help with his care, because the chemo drugs were so toxic. This meant Mick had to give up his job to look after Byron full time.
After Byron's sister Makhiyah was born, things gradually improved. Byron learned how to walk, talk and eat again, and in 2011 he was declared in remission. He had a lot to catch up on, but he was making progress every day.
He went back to school a few days a week and attended an early childhood development program. He was delayed, but he was getting there.
Two years after Byron was declared in remission, his throat started swelling - a symptom all-too-familiar to Angela. She demanded a blood test straight away - and her worst fear was confirmed. His leukaemia was back.
Every year about 150 children are diagnosed with a high-risk cancer or will relapse while on standard therapy, leaving them with less than 30% chance of survival. We believe tailoring treatment to target these children's individual cancers is the key to improving survival rates significantly.
Bone marrow transplant
Byron's only chance of survival was a bone marrow transplant - and fortunately, an anonymous donor was found just before Christmas. The family spent their third Christmas in hospital.
We kept a few Christmas presents for Makhiyah so she and Byron could try and open some at the same time, even though there was a window in between us as Byron was in isolation.
Byron's transplant was a success. Two years on he is thriving - making friends, enjoying school and loving karate. His family will be celebrating twice as hard this Christmas!
We want to be able to offer personalised treatment to every Australian child with high-risk or relapsed cancer by 2020. Our goal is Zero Childhood Cancer.