Brave fam­ily lives life one day at a time

Geraldton Guardian - - Front Page - Picture: Megan Pow­ell

The Sheilds fam­ily — So­phie, 12, Re­nae, Clyde and Harry, 10 — are all smiles, de­spite dad Clyde’s un­for­tu­nate run of luck, be­ing di­ag­nosed with three dif­fer­ent types of cancer in less than 12 months. “We don’t know what the fu­ture holds,” Mrs Sheilds said. “We just keep try­ing to re­set and live day-to-day.”

For Ger­ald­ton fa­ther-of-two Claude Sheilds, the past 18 months have been among the most dif­fi­cult his young fam­ily has faced.

In the space of a year, Mr Sheilds was di­ag­nosed with three dif­fer­ent types of cancer — melanoma, non-Hodgkin lym­phoma and thy­roid cancer.

Af­ter ini­tially trav­el­ling to Perth for chemo­ther­apy treat­ment last year, Claude and wife Re­nae de­cided to tem­po­rar­ily re­lo­cate their two chil­dren, So­phie, 12, and Harry, 10, to the city.

This meant the Cancer Coun­cil’s Craw­ford Lodge be­came their home away from home for the next seven months.

But things be­came even more com­pli­cated once they ar­rived.

Dur­ing this time, Harry broke his foot, was di­ag­nosed with a painful knee con­di­tion and ac­ci­den­tally sliced through a ten­don in his hand. In the same pe­riod, So­phie broke her an­kle and has en­dured on­go­ing med­i­cal com­pli­ca­tions af­ter be­ing hos­pi­talised with in­fluenza, while Mrs Sheilds suf­fered a crip­pling back con­di­tion.

Since re­cently re­turn­ing to Ger­ald­ton, Mr Sheilds, who at the age of 53 has been un­able to re­turn to work as a brick­layer, said their ex­pe­ri­ence at Craw­ford Lodge was like liv­ing in a co­coon.

“We’ve been for­tu­nate to have had amaz­ing sup­port along the way from ev­ery­one we’ve met, in­clud­ing the Cancer Coun­cil staff in Ger­ald­ton who helped make ar­range­ments for our tem­po­rary re­lo­ca­tion to Perth last year,” he said.

“It was mag­nif­i­cent, but re­turn­ing home meant con­fronting the re­al­ity of the con­se­quences of cancer — los­ing our house, fig­ur­ing out how to pay bills, etc, all with­out the com­fort of reg­u­lar med­i­cal ap­point­ments to re­as­sure you along the way.

“For me, that side of it has been worse than the cancer.”

The Sheilds have found some re­lief in con­sult­ing a fi­nan­cial plan­ner through the pro bono Cancer Coun­cil pro­gram to help man­age their fi­nan­cial af­fairs.

While cancer re­mains present in their lives, with doc­tors stat­ing it’s im­pos­si­ble to tell Mr Sheilds he is in re­mis­sion, the fam­ily re­main pos­i­tive and hope to ful­fil their dream of head­ing off on a fam­ily road trip around Aus­tralia.

“We don’t know what the fu­ture holds and we just keep try­ing to re­set and live day to day,” Mrs Sheilds said.

On re­flec­tion on their time in Perth and first finding out about the di­ag­no­sis, Mrs Sheilds said the Cancer Coun­cil re­sources, in­clud­ing Craw­ford Lodge, were a much­needed com­fort.

“They can sim­plify it for you and give you op­tions to help you progress along the treat­ment or surgery path with less stress,” she said. “Re­lo­cat­ing to Craw­ford Lodge re­ally helped set­tle the kids.

“It’s a sup­port­ive en­vi­ron­ment and it al­lowed us to fo­cus on Claude’s treat­ment rather than be wor­ried about things at home.

“We’ve both learnt to ask for help, and the help we’ve been given has been un­be­liev­able.

“We’d urge oth­ers to con­tact Cancer Coun­cil as they can take a mas­sive weight off your shoul­ders and make you feel like you have some con­trol over your life again.”

Daf­fodil Day, one of the Cancer Coun­cil’s big­gest fundrais­ing events, will take place on Fri­day.

Ger­ald­ton Cancer Coun­cil staff will sell Daf­fodil Day mer­chan­dise at Stir­ling Cen­tral Shop­ping Cen­tre from 9am-5.30pm.

For more in­for­ma­tion on Daf­fodil Day, visit the web­site at daf­fodil­day.com.au or phone 1300 656 585.

Re­turn­ing home meant con­fronting the re­al­ity of the con­se­quences of cancer — los­ing our house, fig­ur­ing out how to pay bills, etc, all with­out the com­fort of reg­u­lar med­i­cal ap­point­ments to re­as­sure you along the way. Claude Sheilds

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