or­di­nary peo­ple


The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - UPFRONT -

Turn­ing 30 was some­thing doc­tors didn’t ex­pect me to achieve. When I was five-and-a-half years old, I was given two weeks to live. I had a rare case of acute myeloid leukaemia and needed an ur­gent bone mar­row trans­plant. My sis­ter Margaret [then 9] was my donor. It worked, but I re­lapsed when I was al­most seven and had to­tal body ra­di­a­tion and a sec­ond bone mar­row trans­plant, again from Margaret.

Com­pli­ca­tions from this treat­ment meant my brain was de­prived of oxy­gen for eight min­utes, caus­ing mem­ory loss. As a re­sult, I only re­mem­ber bits of grow­ing up and none of my child­hood med­i­cal treat­ments, which my mum Maria, 54, con­sid­ers a bless­ing in dis­guise. Mum has been by my side the whole way. We are very close. We think the same, we even dress the same. My sis­ters and brother [Ka­te­rina, 34, Margaret, 33, Ge­orge, 26] sup­port me a lot and I spend a lot of time with my dad [Em­manuel, 60] too. Dad is a co-founder of the Cof­fee Club and since 1994 the busi­ness has held an an­nual ball to raise money for the Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal Foun­da­tion. It’s been a way for the fam­ily to give back and do its bit to try to find a cure for child­hood can­cer.

I work full-time at the Cof­fee Club head of­fice at in­ner-city West End, which I en­joy very much, and I live with my par­ents. I am so lucky to have such an amaz­ing and sup­port­ive fam­ily. There are some last­ing health is­sues I have as a re­sult of all my treat­ment – I have a form of epilepsy and, in 2011, spent seven months in hos­pi­tal with heart fail­ure from car­diomy­opa­thy. There is a lot of med­i­ca­tion I take – 24 tablets ev­ery day – but I don’t think of my­self as a per­son who’s sick. Yes, I’ve got a heart con­di­tion and I’ve gone through all that pain and suf­fer­ing, but I’m here. I just want to live a happy life and think happy thoughts. I’m a regular per­son who goes to work and has fun.

I hope that my story can show sick kids and their par­ents that there is al­ways hope. Don’t ever give up, be­cause look at me. ELISSA LAWRENCE This year, the Cof­fee Club Charity Ball joins forces with the Chan­nel Nine Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal Telethon to raise money for the Lady Ci­lento Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal, next Satur­day at Bris­bane Con­ven­tion & Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre. See tc­ctelethon­ball.com.au

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