Natalia's Story

Natalia's story

The families that are fighting now need to hear the good stories. I craved those stories; they gave me hope.

Belinda, Natalia's mum Belinda, Natalia's mum

19-month-old Natalia was feverish and had ulcers, which mum Belinda thought was normal - but when she saw blood around Natalia's mouth and bruising on her back, she feared it was more than just teething.

meet Natalia

Meet Natalia

Not just teething

Belinda noticed bruising on Natalia's back and upper arms, a lump on the side of her head and a large white ulcer in her mouth. One morning Natalia woke up with bleeding gums.

Natalia Not just teething

At first I put it down to teething, then I thought she might have a vitamin deficiency - but different symptoms kept appearing.

Belinda, Natalia's mumBelinda, Natalia's mum

Emergency

Belinda took Natalia to three different doctors, who thought she may have a virus or a haematoma. Eventually they went to emergency at the Children's Hospital at Westmead.

Natalia Emergency

The triage nurse took one look at Natalia and told us to come straight through.

Belinda, Natalia's mumBelinda, Natalia's mum

Cancer in her blood

A doctor came in, closed the door and told Belinda and her husband Tony that Natalia had cancer in her blood. The pair wailed uncontrollably.

Natalia Cancer in her blood

Each year, around 150 Australian children and almost as many adults are diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, which is a type of blood cancer. It is also the most common form of cancer in children.

I couldn't look at Nat at the time. I couldn't associate her with cancer.

Belinda, Natalia's mumBelinda, Natalia's mum

Diagnosis

Natalia had an emergency blood transfusion that evening and a bone marrow aspiration the following morning. Her central line was put in and later that day it was confirmed she had Type B acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

Natalia Diagnosis

A social worker said to me "This will be your home for the next two years." That's when it really hit home - I had no idea treatment lasted for that long.

Belinda, Natalia's mumBelinda, Natalia's mum

Treatment

Natalia's treatment started straight away and she underwent nine months of intense chemo. Her hair fell out slowly and she became so weak she stopped walking.

Natalia Treatment

When her hair started falling out, I grabbed the clippers and shaved her head. All of a sudden, my daughter was the image I had in my mind of a child with leukaemia.

Belinda, Natalia's mumBelinda, Natalia's mum

A little brother

Two days before Natalia's central line was removed, her little brother Lucas was born. Throughout her pregnancy, Belinda didn't know how she'd cope when he arrived. She was terrified he'd get sick too. Lucas was born covered in tiny spots called petechiae, which had been one of Natalia's symptoms before she was diagnosed. Thankfully, it turned out to be nothing serious - Lucas was a happy, healthy baby.

Maintenance

18 months of maintenance followed for Natalia, which consisted of oral chemo at home and trips to the hospital twice per week. As the hospital visits became less frequent, Belinda became more worried - the hospital had been her comfort zone.

Natalia Maintenance

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.

Currently, the survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in children is close to nine out of 10. We want to increase this to 10 out of 10.

Natalia today

Natalia passed her 5-year remission milestone in May 2015. Now nine, she loves school, arts and playing with animals - in fact, she just got a new puppy! Belinda is about to graduate as a nurse.

Natalia Natalia today

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