Tilly's story


I woke up at 7:30am on a normal, sunny morning. By 6:30pm that night, my daughter had cancer.

Chantal, Tilly’s mum

Chantal and her husband Marco were leading happy lives with their daughters Lucy, Ruby and baby Tilly. This is their emotional story about how their world fell apart when Tilly was diagnosed with leukaemia at just nine months old.

Just a normal day

It was just a regular morning for Chantal, getting her daughters ready for school. Her eldest, Lucy, said baby Tilly had chickenpox in her ear. Chantal took her to the GP and was sent immediately for a blood test.

Turned upside-down

By 6.30pm that evening Tilly had been diagnosed with leukaemia. Because she was under one year old, her chances of survival were less than 50 per cent.

Infant leukaemia (diagnosed at less than 12 months old) is an aggressive, therapy-resistant disease with poor prognosis. The five-year survival rates are only 40–50 per cent.


I woke up at 7:30am on a normal, sunny day. By 6:30pm, my daughter had cancer – and our world changed forever.

- Chantal, Tilly's mum

Treatment begins

Tilly was started immediately on an aggressive regime of chemotherapy to destroy as much of the cancer as possible.

By exploiting the differences between infant leukaemia cells and normal cells, our researchers have identified new compounds that will specifically target infant leukaemia cells while leaving healthy cells alone.


I felt like throwing up. It was like being punched in the stomach... we were completely blindsided.

- Chantal, Tilly's mum

Together as a family

Two long years of treatment had an horrific effect on Tilly's whole family. To try and keep the family together, Chantal and Marco decided to learn to administer Tilly's chemo at home.

Children's Cancer Institute is collaborating with experts in nanoparticle technology to ensure these new compounds are most effectively delivered to the leukaemia cells within a child’s body.


I left Lucy and Ruby for days on end while I was in hospital. I was so worried they'd hate their little sister for taking me away.

- Chantal, Tilly's mum

Tilly today

Tilly completed her treatment in 2011. Today she is a bubbly eight-year-old who loves swimming, ballet dancing and crafts. When she reached her five-year cancer-free milestone, her parents surprised her with a trip to Paris!


Nanoparticle technology has the potential to increase survival rates and reduce side-effects for children like Tilly.

- Dr Michelle Henderson

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