Ava Wake had just turned two when her parents Leanne and James noticed something was wrong. Their happy, sunny baby girl suddenly stopped sleeping, playing or walking and became inconsolable.
On April 5, James and Leanne, who is 33 weeks pregnant, took their daughter to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne for a full-body MRI.
“On the morning of the 7th we came into the room, and there were six doctors. As soon as I saw them, I knew it wasn’t good. They told us they had found tumours,” Leanne said.
After multiple medical appointments, they received the blow of their lives: little Ava is fighting Neuroblastoma, a very aggressive form of cancer with a terrifying prognosis.
They were shocked to learn that her best chance for survival is a new trial treatment only available at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York City, which carries an extremely hefty $350,000 price tag.
Leanne and James are now desperately raising money for Ava to receive the life-saving treatment to help her live past the age of five. Despite amazing results, the vaccine is currently not receiving funding, leaving family and friends to come up with the money necessary for treatment as well as flights and accommodation for one year in America.
The still-smiling toddler is in the middle of her sixth round of chemotherapy and has already endured multiple extremely invasive surgeries, including having her ovaries removed and harvested, stem cells harvested, seven blood and platelet transfusions. She is in hospital three weeks a month, and the journey to recovery includes two years of ongoing treatments.
But her parents say they will do whatever it takes to help her get well.
James and Leanne, who is still working full-time, have set up a GoFundMe fundraising page to get their little girl the treatment she needs.
“Every time we see that someone we don’t know has donated to Ava’s GoFundMe, we are just overwhelmed with gratitude. Every little bit means so much,” said Ava’s dad James, who has left his job to be Ava’s full-time carer.
“I have pushed myself very hard to provide for my family, and it is difficult to accept that we just can’t do this on our own. I do not take it lightly asking for money, but it is Ava’s only hope,” said Leanne.
Friends and volunteers are rallying to the cause, but the family is still well short of their goal. A website and Facebook page called Ava’s Journey have been set up to provide updates on Ava’s progress.
In the family’s local community, neighbours have jumped on board, hosting a huge fundraising event to take place on Saturday, 25th August at the Kingston Town Hall in Moorabbin. The event will run from 8am to 3pm, and all proceeds will go toward funding Ava’s treatment.
The family-friendly event will include face painting, massage, car wash, physiotherapy, facials, manicures, haircuts, spray-tans, counselling, face painting, photography, gardening, babysitting and house cleaning. All services are being donated by Bayside neighbours.
“I have never seen a community come together so willingly and quickly, to offer up so many talents. We have been overwhelmed with the support for our Ava and just hope we get a really good turn out on the day,” says James.
“You think, how do you cope, but you just have to do whatever it takes. As a parent you will do anything for your child. We are determined to stay positive and we will do whatever it takes to save our baby girl.”
To find out how you can support Ava, please visit GoFundMe.