ELENI DRIVAS, 30, HOLL AND PARK, ADMINistrative ASSISTANT
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