When they said 'cancer', I freaked out. As far as I knew, there was no cure for cancer.
- Melissa, Joel’s mum
12-week-old Joel was a perfectly healthy, happy baby, with just one strange symptom.
The only sign that something was wrong was that Joel made a squeaky noise when he breathed. The first doctor Melissa took him to thought it was bronchitis; the second doctor diagnosed croup. The third discovered something that would change their lives forever.
An X-ray revealed a mass in Joel's chest. Melissa was told to take him straight to the Children's Hospital at Westmead for further tests. He was sedated in preparation for a CT scan, but suddenly stopped breathing. From then on, Joel was put in intensive care whenever he had an anaesthetic.
Although the doctors hadn't yet done a biopsy, they told Melissa they were 99% sure it was neuroblastoma.
At first, no-one actually said 'cancer' - they only used the words 'mass' and 'tumour'. It didn't click.
- Melissa, Joel's mum
Joel started chemotherapy in Intensive Care. Two days later, his squeaky breathing had stopped, and the tumour had shrunk significantly. He continued treatment for another 5 months, then had surgery to remove the remainder of the tumour. By his first birthday, Joel was in remission.
Joel is now 15 years old and in year 10 at School. He is looking forward to starting an apprenticeship next year as an electrician. He plays fullback for Kellyville Bushrangers Junior Rugby League Football Club which keeps him fit! He got his junior boat licence and enjoys taking out the “tinny”. He has certainly come a long way since his diagnosis in 2006, he lives his life to the fullest in memory of all his mates who lost their battles. He continues to give back each year with his involvement in the Hills Relay for life, raising $2500 last year for shaving his head.
The social workers remind him he needs to be careful; for example, he can't smoke when he's older and always needs to wear sunscreen.
- Melissa, Joel’s mum
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