by MELANIE HEARSE
The image of a cheeky three year old Elliot Parish, caught with remnants of the Milo he’d been drinking spread across his cheeks, and a somber frown in place at having the moment captured, has become symbolic of the charity started in his honour, the Telethon Adventurers. Established by the Parish’s and former AFL star Peter Wilson in 2010, their ultimate goal is finding a cure for childhood cancer which took their youngest son Elliot’s life in February of 2011, when he was only four years old.
Emily explained in May 2009, when Elliot was only two, he turned quickly from a small boy that ran the house, and counted eating butter from a tub under the table amongst his favourite feasts, into one who experienced bouts of vomiting that spread over three or four nights at a go, and ‘wobbled’ when he walked.
“One day I was talking to a close friend about him, and she said she knew a little girl that had the same symptoms and had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. She asked me if we’d had him checked out for that, so I talked to Elliot’s pediatrician, expecting the idea to be dismissed, but his pediatrician booked him in for some scans.”
Following a CT scan at Princess Margaret Hospital, Emily was asked how far away Rick was, as they wanted to talk to both of them together. “For me, the hospital room began to spin. When he arrived, they told us the CT scan showed Elliot had a brain tumour, 4cm in diameter, at the base of his brain. They diagnosed him with Medulloblastoma, the most common form of brain tumour found in children.”
“We were told he had a 30 per cent chance of survival, and we thought this was better than no chance and decided go ahead with treatment. Some parents hear far worse, they are told to take their child home because there is nothing that can be done, so we had plenty of fight.”
It was at this point that Rick starting asking what he could do to help Elliot and other kids like him fight childhood cancer. With the simple response of ‘we need money – for research and tools to help with that research’, he and Peter Wilson immediately organised for a group of 20 people from Perth to tackle Mont Blanc France, with the goal of raising money through people sponsoring them for the climb. Climbing the highest mountain in the Alps netted each climber more than $20,000 to contribute to the project, and the charity made $960,000 in just 10 months.
The money purchased a 3D molecular imager that allowed the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research scientists to monitor a tumour’s growth, taking daily snapshots of brain and spinal tumours in mice to monitor their development, and helps pinpoint the genetic differences that lead to the spread of some tumours. The machine also assists with the diagnosis and treatment of young cancer patients. The machine was dedicated to Elliot, and is called “Elliot’s machine” – and was dedicated while Elliot was still alive, with him attending the ceremony alongside Professor Fiona Stanley.