Mad­di­son is kick­ing cancer to the kerb

Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal Foun­da­tion makes sure kids like Bund­aberg’s Mad­di­son Challen are sur­rounded by fun and pos­i­tiv­ity, SHERELLE MOODY writes

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LIT­TLE Mad­di­son Challen has en­dured more in the past year than most of us will ex­pe­ri­ence in a life­time.

Mad­di­son’s mother, Vanessa, says the Bund­aberg five-year-old is a “re­ally spe­cial and a very happy lit­tle munchkin” – de­spite the pre-schooler be­ing di­ag­nosed with a soft tis­sue cancer called rhab­domyosar­coma in July.

Vanessa first sus­pected some­thing was not quite right with her daugh­ter when the young­ster com­plained of a sore leg as the fam­ily was about to board a flight from New Zealand to Aus­tralia.

“She wouldn’t eat or drink and she was lethar­gic.

“We knew some­thing wasn’t right.”

As soon as the fam­ily ar­rived home from their hol­i­day, they took Mad­di­son to the doc­tor, ex­pect­ing to find noth­ing more than a small frac­ture.

The scans of her bones came back all clear, but doc­tors dis­cov­ered a strange lump in her tummy.

“The doc­tors came into the room and said ‘You are go­ing down to Bris­bane for an MRI’,” Vanessa said.

“We knew as soon as they said that, that it wasn’t a good sign – that some­thing se­ri­ous was wrong.”

Twenty-four hours later Vanessa, Mad­di­son, hus­band Glen and Mad­di­son’s brother An­drew were in Lady Ci­lento Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal where they got the cancer di­ag­no­sis.

Rhab­domyosar­coma im­pacts mus­cles, ten­dons, car­ti­lage and bones and is one of the most com­mon soft tis­sue sar­co­mas found in chil­dren.

“It was caus­ing her so many is­sues – her blad­der was en­larged, her kid­neys were get­ting backed up be­cause she couldn’t pee, she was in pain be­cause the tu­mour was pinch­ing the nerves go­ing down her legs and she was lethar­gic from be­ing sick and hav­ing no nu­tri­ents,” Vanessa said.

Doc­tors are un­able to re­move the grape­fruit-sized tu­mour be­cause it has a blood sup­ply and it’s wrapped around Mad­di­son’s kid­neys and her ar­ter­ies.

They hope ra­di­a­tion and chemo­ther­apy will re­duce the mass enough for it to be re­moved.

“The ideal would be re­mov­ing it when it’s small enough and if it’s not in a po­si­tion where it will com­pro­mise her health,” Vanessa said.

“There’s no guar­an­tees for her fu­ture. It could im­pact her fer­til­ity, there could be re­lapses and the chemo it­self could lead to fur­ther can­cers.”

While sup­port­ing a child with cancer would be hard for any par­ent, the strug­gle is ex­tra tough for Vanessa and Glen who as nurses know all too well the worst pos­si­ble out­comes for kids in their daugh­ter’s sit­u­a­tion.

“We know too much,” Vanessa said.

“It’s been re­ally hard – some days I’m good, but some days I just want to cry.

“It’s hard to cope but I have to.

“Mad­di­son doesn’t like to see me up­set.

“The hard­est part is be­ing away from my sup­port net­works back home.”

When not at Lady Ci­lento, Vanessa and Mad­di­son live rent-free at the nearby Childhood Cancer Cen­tre.

Glen re­mains in Bund­aberg to work and care for six-year-old An­drew, but re­turns to Bris­bane as much as pos­si­ble.

Mad­di­son and Vanessa will re­main in Bris­bane un­til May next year.

Their time at Lady Ci­lento will be made a lot eas­ier with the help of the Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal Foun­da­tion.

From clown doc­tors to cud­dle car­ers and mu­sic ther­apy, the foun­da­tion and its team of volunteers do their best to en­sure Mad­di­son is sur­rounded by fun and pos­i­tiv­ity, par­tic­u­larly when she is re­ceiv­ing treat­ment.

❝ Mad­di­son re­ally loves her mu­sic ther­apy and bed­side play. — Mum Vanessa

“Mad­di­son re­ally loves her mu­sic ther­apy and bed­side play,” Vanessa said.

“It has re­ally kept her en­gaged and helped to break up her long days in hos­pi­tal and al­ways cheers her up when she’s hav­ing a hard time.”

Mad­di­son was one of 989 Wide Bay res­i­dents treated at Lady Ci­lento last fi­nan­cial year.

The young­ster is tak­ing on a big chal­lenge, help­ing to pro­mote the an­nual Chan­nel Nine Telethon sup­port­ing the Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal Foun­da­tion on Satur­day.

The ap­peal aims to raise $11 mil­lion.

As well as sup­port­ing pa­tients at LCCH, do­na­tions pay for med­i­cal equip­ment, re­search and med­i­cal ser­vices at Lady Ci­lento and through­out Queens­land and North­ern NSW.

Do­nate at or by phon­ing 1800 909 900.

POS­I­TIVE: Bund­aberg's Mad­di­son Challen takes a break from cancer treat­ment at Lady Ci­lento Chil­dren's Hos­pi­tal in Bris­bane.

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