Aroha’s mum is a nurse, so when Aroha was unwell for months with multiple hospital admissions for asthma and high fevers, she knew something was wrong. They were told it was just flu season, and tried several different medications and doctors before someone finally listened – and Aroha was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.
Luckily she was diagnosed early enough that her doctors were able to take some time to stabilise her before starting chemotherapy. Any longer waiting for a diagnosis could have a different story. Although she was still very unwell, her medical team eventually decided that they couldn’t wait any longer, and Aroha went up to surgery with transfusions still running to get the bone marrow biopsy and port insertion which would allow her to start treatment.
Aroha has been in treatment since November 1st, 2016 – she is now 8 years old. There have been many bumps in the road, with Aroha suffering several unpleasant and uncommon side effects. She’s missed a lot of school, and experiences unstable bloods sugars during part of her treatment cycle, which knocks her out of the world for ten or so days each time. There are often difficulties trying to access her port (which involves inserting a large needle into the port through her chest) with many days taking 7-12 attempts to get her accessed. Her treatment is due to finish in 2019.
Before her diagnosis, Aroha lived in her own happy world. Now, her carefree spirit has been broken and she analyses everything around her – her innocence has been lost. She understands concepts of life that no child should have to know so young.
However, Aroha’s ability to make others feel included has if anything grown during these dark times. On a good day on the ward she will sit and “play” with children that might not be able to move or speak back. She carefully chats away to them, making sure they are a part of her play escape. She’s constantly looking for ways to help others and will often share her bingo prizes to brighten another child’s day.
It’s taken over a year for her to get to a good place of “coping”. Her best medicine has been projects for others. She bakes at every opportunity on planned admissions for staff and the ward, celebrating different events throughout the year. Aroha is often found wandering the ward, fasting herself for theatre, handing out morning tea goodies. For Christmas she sewed over seventy stockings herself and fundraised to fill them – she was able to include not just the ward’s children but siblings, mums and dads too.
In Maori, Aroha is often translated as “love”, but the word encompasses so much more than that. It is the breath of life and the creative force of the spirit. It assumes that the universe is abundant and that there are more opportunities than people. It seeks and draws out the best in people, it rejects greed, aggression and ignorance and instead encourages actions that are generous.
This is Aroha.
Aroha likes rainbows, Pokemom, Harry Potter, Mario and Lols!