Too many children are dying. That’s why we need research.Natalie, Kane's mum
Kane is like a lot of eight-year-olds: irrepressible, crazy about Star Wars, and always looking for adventure. But unlike his friends, Kane has been in hospital for most of his life. Diagnosed with leukaemia when he was three years of age, he underwent two gruelling years of treatment, only to relapse a year later.
Kane was a very active kid. He used to climb all over everything, even before he could walk. Kane and his big sister loved playing together outdoors, jumping on the trampoline, running in the sprinkler and playing on the swings. With mum, Natalie and dad, Brendan, the family of four were often off on excursions, and always planning the next adventure.
Kane started to have trouble walking. He complained of leg pain and seemed to get more and more tired. Natalie sensed something was very wrong. She took him to see the doctor, then to a physiotherapist, then to another doctor… but nothing was showing up. Then one day, the family went to the zoo. Kane just stayed in his stroller and slept the whole time. On the way home his eyes swelled up. Natalie rang a doctor, who suggested taking Kane to the hospital.
How can my child go from not keeping still, to not wanting to walk, or ride his bike, or any of those kinds of things? He just stopped.
At the first hospital visit, the doctor couldn’t find anything medically wrong, so suggested that Natalie take him to a GP for another check-up in a few days’ time. After another trip to the doctor, Natalie insisted on getting a blood test done – a test that’s not routinely done in young children because of its invasive nature. When the results came back, Kane was sent straight to hospital. That’s when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
We were told that if we hadn’t taken Kane in when we did, he’d have only had four weeks to live. I’d been fighting for five weeks to find out what was wrong with him, so that was gut-wrenching.
As soon as Kane’s diagnosis was confirmed, he began chemotherapy. Brendan left work to become Kane’s carer, staying by his son’s bedside throughout the gruelling treatment. After a full two years of treatment, Kane went into remission.
Just 18 months after he went into remission, the cancer was back. Kane was in worse shape than the first time around. He was so frail his parents couldn’t even hug him for fear of breaking his bones. Again, he is undergoing intensive treatment.
He went downhill so quickly. We had to face whether treatment would work because it had come back so aggressively.
Kane and his family are now taking life one day at a time. Kane is back on chemotherapy and is at school as often as he can be. He’s made friends with the boys next door, loves swimming and riding his scooter, and is mad about Harry Potter. Despite all he’s been through and an uncertain future, he remains as adventurous as ever.
We’ve had to learn that life’s not all about goals. We try to do little things as a family. We just embrace the day.
Our Leukaemia Biology team have made a major discovery for children with relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, which uncovers a crucial piece of the puzzle about why children like Kane become resistant to treatment when they relapse.
For the first time, we understand the mechanism behind resistance to glucocorticoids, one of the most important drugs we use to treat leukaemia. Find out more about this ground-breaking research here.