Meet Riley, a cheeky little boy with an awesome sense of humour and endless energy (his superpower!). He loves playing with trucks and trains, and to see him running around the park and digging in the sandpit, you wouldn’t know that he also has leukaemia, enduring regular bouts of chemotherapy to battle his cancer.
When Riley was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) at two years old, the whole world changed for his parents Lorene and Eli.
“In that instant, our world shifted. We were living a new life. Anything that had seemed important… had vanished.”
Suddenly there was surgery and blood transfusions and a move from their home in Dunsborough to Perth so Riley could be close to Princess Margaret Hospital for treatment. He had a rapid and eventful diagnosis – after a week of feeling under the weather he was rushed by ambulance from Dunsborough to Bunbury Hospital, where the doctors diagnosed him with ALL. A few hours later Riley and Eli were on a plane flown to Princess Margaret Hospital by the Royal Flying Doctor Service, a trip that would save Riley’s life. Lorene is so thankful for the incredible RFDS staff and their help at such an overwhelmingly time.
Once in Perth, Riley immediately started intensive chemotherapy, which would go on for eight months. The treatment has been hard on everyone, particularly when Riley needed to be isolated from family and friends to avoid the risk of infection.
“Chemotherapy has meant much more than Riley taking some medicine and his hair falling out. It has been about explaining to him why he is forced to endure painful procedures and take medicines that make him sick.”
But Riley’s high-spirited nature has kept his parents going. He is their source of strength, along with the family and friends who have provided much needed support during Riley’s treatment. Both in Dunsborough and Lorene’s hometown of Donnybrook, the community really pulled together to support them and help the whole experience to be as smooth as it possibly could.
“Both our families have been very supportive, colleagues, friends and mum’s groups – there’s been support all around us the whole time, in every aspect. We are so grateful for the community in which we live.”
“You’ve got to just take each days as it comes, because it’s so intense. You have to just be in the moment and give them your undivided attention when they need it. We found with Riley that by being honest with him and telling him what’s happening, it helped him deal with the circumstances. It hasn’t been easy for him.”
Riley finished the intensive phase of his chemotherapy in October last year, and the family moved back to Dunsborough just in time to welcome his baby brother Alby! When Lorene was pregnant with Alby, Riley loved her “bump,” saying hello and goodnight every day. Alby is now 10 months old and the boys both adore each other.
Riley is now three, and will need to have maintenance chemotherapy until March 2019. He still loves playing in the sandpit with his trucks and diggers, and has developed an impressive vocabulary including medical terms and the names of all his medicines.
But he would not have survived the early days of his disease without access to donated blood – despite experiencing delays due to shortages. Lorene and Eli and are passionate about blood and bone marrow donation, and are keen to ensure that the community understands how important it is.
“It saves the lives of cancer patients every day.”
If you take one thing away from Riley’s story – let it be to consider donating blood. You could be saving the life of a child just like him!
You can purchase prints of Riley’s artwork here.