When Hiep and Steve had their son Liam little did they know that the sound of a bell would be the best thing they would ever hear.
Born with Downs Syndrome, Hiep and Steve always knew there would be challenges in life for Liam but when at just two years of age he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia, they felt a dread they had never known.
A parent’s hardest question
‘I didn’t I didn’t want to say,’ said Steve. ‘I didn’t want to ask “How long has he got?” So I said “Can he survive?” and the doctor said, “Yes, of course, we can treat it.” So. My next question was about the survival rate and she said 90 to 95 per cent. She said that Downs kids respond really well to treatment. Downs Syndrome was a bonus!’
What followed was seven months of intense chemotherapy treatment which saw the family re-locate from Alstonville to Brisbane.
Hiep had to give up her job at Lismore Base hospital to move onto the ward with Liam and Steve spent hours travelling back and forward to Brisbane to keep going to work – he couldn’t see his family for seven weeks during the lockdowns.
Childhood Cancer Support
The couple says they were fortunate to receive support from Brisbane non-profit organisation Childhood Cancer Support during this time which included free accommodation close to the hospital.
Hiep and Steve say they don’t know what they would have done with their support. They provided the family with a two-bedroom unit at one of their facilities for their entire stay, transfers to and from the hospital and support with food and other items. There is also the offer of counselling for families who feel that will help
Hiep says that even though she is a nurse, it’s a very different story when it’s your own child says. ‘Liam was such a brave boy during the treatment which involved a central line tube in his chest and dozens of injections. He sailed through smoothly the whole way pretty well, I would say unbelievably well. He had a few little hiccups with the rash here and there but that’s all a side effect from the chemo.’
Then the wonderful day came when Liam’s treatment was done, he was declared in remission, and he was offered the chance to ring the bell at the cancer ward at the Brisbane Children’s Hospital letting everyone know he was well again.
A reason to celebrate
Hiep and Steve say that last day was the best. ‘They brought the bell outside into the garden,’ said Hiep. ‘One of the other mums at Childhood Cancer Support decorated it for us with streamers.’
‘It was a really beautiful thing,’ said Steve.
And did Liam enjoy singing the bell? Hiep and Steve laugh as they tell about how he rang the bell not just once but three times – music to everyone’s ears.
Now that Liam has finished his treatment, his parents Stephen and Hiep are calling for families to support Childhood Cancer Support so that they can continue to help regional families facing childhood cancer.