When Maddy was four-and-a-half, she fell off the trampoline at her friend's place and hurt her leg. An x-ray at the hospital showed it was nothing serious and the doctor on duty said "she's probably putting it on a bit." But Kristy knew her daughter wasn't like that.
Kristy took Maddy to the family GP, who thought she might be low in iron and conducted a blood test. He called Kristy shortly after and asked her to bring Maddy straight back to the surgery.
I knew something was wrong straight away. Doctors don't get you to come in for no reason.
Maddy was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and started treatment straight away at Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick. Her baby brother Lachlan was only 7 weeks old.
Maddy saw a little girl in hospital with no hair and asked me why she looked different. Then I had to tell my daughter - who loved wearing pigtails & ribbons - that she too would lose her hair.
Maddy underwent six months of intense chemotherapy treatment. The first three months were a blur of day-long trips to hospital, chemotherapy, fasting, cannulas and general anaesthetics. Kristy and Dave were forced to spend day after day away from their two young sons.
The minimal residual disease (MRD) test, developed at Children's Cancer Institute, allows us to identify the children at highest risk of relapse and pass that information on to the clinician so their treatment can be intensified. It also allows us to identify those children who are at lower risk of relapse and for whom more intense treatment is unnecessary.
Maddy insisted on seeing the bright side of being in hospital. She laughed, sung, danced, made headbands and surrounded herself with all things purple.
Maddy is an incredibly strong little girl. No matter what she was going through, she just wanted to have a bit of fun!
Maddy continued on maintenance treatment for 18 months. During this time, she was in and out of hospital - some stays were a few hours; some were days on end.
She never complained and she never asked why. She just did what she had to do.
Maddy finished treatment in November 2013. Kristy and Dave are relieved, but they know Maddy's journey will never be over. She'll need to be monitored closely for short-term and long-term side-effects, likely for the rest of her life.
We’re on the brink of a new era of medicine, with the traditional ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to cancer treatment being replaced by personalised treatment for each patient.
The importance of research
Kristy and Dave champion Children's Cancer Institute's work and look forward to the day when childhood cancer is as easy to treat as a common cold.
Our researchers recently made an important step towards a 100% survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, with the latest findings of a trial confirming the superiority of a chemotherapy drug for treating the disease.
Happy, healthy kids like Maddy are here today purely because of research. It's as simple as that.