Children's Cancer Foundation
Mum Sharon shares the story of a chance accident led to the discovery of a tumour in her daughter Kasey’s leg, and how this regional family managed her cancer treatment.
Kasey is a keen netball player, enthusiastic student and assistant swim coach and made her debut at the Barham and Koondrook Debutant Ball on 28 April 2017.
In preparation for her debut, Kasey, who is seventeen, had danced her way through 30 hours of training; all the time with a painful left knee. She had been injured during a netball training session in February, but had been reluctant to complain about the pain, as she wanted to keep on playing.
Kasey’s mum, Sharon, saw that she was in a lot of pain and took her to a physiotherapist. When the exercises failed to ease the pain, she made an appointment with a sports physician in Melbourne. Later though, a collision with another player during a netball game meant Sharon had to take Kasey to the Swan Hill Hospital Accident and Emergency Department.
After examining Kasey’s knee and X-ray the doctor told Sharon and Kasey that she had very bad news. That there was a tumour visible on Kasey’s X-ray and the doctor suspected that it was osteosarcoma (a type of bone cancer). The doctor made some phone calls and handed Sharon a scrap of paper with the details of an orthopaedic surgeon at The Royal Children’s Hospital. They had an appointment for 8am the next day.
“The doctor told us to ‘just get in your car and drive…this is your new priority and nothing else is as important as this,”said Sharon.
Sharon recalled how the whole situation was surreal and she felt too unnerved to drive the 86km trip back to Wakool without taking time out to mentally process everything that had just happened. She knew that her family now faced major changes. While Kasey ate a late lunch at their favourite Swan Hill café, Sharon flew into action, phoning Kasey’s school, the President of the Wakool Preschool to resign from her role as Teaching Director and booked their Melbourne accommodation. Once home, Sharon and Kasey quickly packed their overnight bags ready for their 400km trip to Melbourne.
Sharon recalls saying farewell to Robin and breaking the news to Kasey’s younger brother, Leonard, and how awful and hard it was for them to drive away.
Kasey was admitted to The Royal Children’s Hospital for preliminary tests and Sharon stayed in a nearby apartment for three nights.
“At the end of that first long day, I left the hospital alone at 11:30pm, and I realised how far away the rest of our family were,”said Sharon.
Sharon and Kasey were able to return home to their 1,500-acre mixed cereal and beef farm near Wakool for just 48 hours.
“Kasey went to school to farewell her friends, while I cooked and froze enough meals for Robin and Leonard to live on for the next three months,” said Sharon
Kasey started chemotherapy the day that Sharon had originally booked her to see the sports physician.
“Her netball accident fast tracked the discovery of her tumour and decreased the time that the cancer had to spread by two weeks,” said Sharon. “It was a gut-wrenching blow to find out that Kasey had cancer. At first, I was full of questions and self-doubt. I kept running through different scenarios that may have contributed to Kasey getting cancer”.
“I was relieved when Kasey’s oncologist at The Royal Children’s Hospital told us that kids get cancer for no apparent reason and that it isn’t related to what has or hasn’t been done in the past.” Robin remained at home to manage the family farm and to ensure Leonard could continue school and sport. “We both agreed that it was important to keep some normality in Leonard’s life but the separation was challenging for the whole family,” said Sharon. “It was hard being Leonard’s phone mum instead of being there with him.”
Sharon and Kasey had few opportunities to return home in between chemotherapy sessions, as the journey from the hospital to the farm made Kasey extremely nauseous “even on her good days.”
In the city, Sharon played super mum, acting as Kasey’s advocate and personal carer 24/7.
She managed the farm administration and continued her role as volunteer secretary of the Bar-rook Swimming Club from the Melbourne apartment or the hospital.
“The past year has been life-changing and we are indebted to Kasey’s oncology team for saving her life and her orthopaedic team for saving her leg,”
After nine months of intensive chemotherapy Sharon and Kasey moved back to the farm.
“Although Kasey’s cancer journey has made our family stronger, we just didn’t understand that when chemotherapy finished our journey was about to begin,” said Sharon. “We are learning to create a new life because Kasey can never return to her old life.” Kasey had to manage completing Year 11 from home, as her fatigue level prevented her from attending face-to-face classes.
Chemotherapy drugs work in complex ways and the side effects – such as cloudiness of thoughts, temporary memory loss and extreme fatigue – can last for years post-cancer treatment. Oncologists monitor chemotherapy toxicity to avoid any long-term damage to internal organs.
“Our family tries to live in the moment rather than worrying about things that are out of our control,” said Sharon. “Even though Kasey’s oncologists outlined her Osteosarcoma Protocol extensively, we couldn’t fully understand the implications until we were immersed in life after chemotherapy.”
The Children’s Cancer Foundation funds clinical research and trials that assist oncologists to improve treatment options and outcomes for children with cancer, like Kasey.
“Childhood cancer research is imperative to the development of treating childhood cancer and the work that the Children’s Cancer Foundation does to raise funds in commendable,”
Thank you to Sharon for sharing her family’s story with the Foundation. You can read Kasey’s story here.