Within an hour, they called to say 'Come back to the hospital. It's more than just an ear infection'.
- Laura, Carys' mum
Carys was a bright and active little girl, happy to try anything. But she very nearly didn’t make it to 7 years of age. Having since turned the corner, she says she is now looking forward to life “getting back to normal”. That, and “getting a doggy” ;)
Carys was about to fly with her family to Fiji for a much-anticipated family holiday when she suddenly took ill. First she had an ear infection, then constant nose bleeds, easy bruising, and a complete lack of energy. It was clear something was wrong. But COVID had just hit, and it wasn’t easy to get medical appointments. When her mum, Laura, took Carys’ little brother Cohle in for his 4-year-old immunisations, she decided to take Carys in as well “just for another look”. That’s when the GP told her: go straight to the hospital.
If we’d put her on that plane to Fiji, she would have died there.
- Laura, Cary's Mum
When Laura arrived at the hospital with Carys, blood tests were done immediately. The results were clearly cause for concern. “They were all exclaiming at the computer and putting their arms up,” says Laura. “It seems her white blood count was the second highest count they’d ever seen.” As soon as the test results were confirmed, Laura was told her daughter had leukaemia. But she says it wasn’t until about an hour and a half later that it really hit her.
Carys’ white blood count needed to come down before chemotherapy could start, but she wasn’t responding to treatment. “It took her so long to stabilize, we were warned that we might lose her,” says Laura. Eventually Carys was able to go home, but within 24 hours she developed a temperature and was back in hospital – the start of a recurring pattern.
At one point, the drugs caused Carys to stop communicating, which Laura says was traumatic. Then during the third round of chemo, Carys’ skin became very flaky and her lips turned black. Fortunately, her condition improved over time.
I went into shock. I just remember sitting there and feeling sick.
- Laura, Carys' Mum
Now on maintenance therapy, Carys is back at school (in Year 2) and relishing being able to do some of the things she used to love, like swimming, as well as new adventures like horse riding and bike riding.
“We’re extremely lucky that all the research that’s been funded by people to date means that Carys got better,” says Mark, who is now doing regular bike rides to raise money for childhood cancer research. Laura agrees. “If we don’t want these things to happen, we’ve got to look towards research.”