“There’s a phone call. Louise, it’s for you.” It was December 6, 2018, when teacher’s aide Louise O’Reilly received the message via a colleague.
“Me? No one ever rings me at school.”
By then there were six missed calls on the Sunshine Coast woman’s mobile phone, which lay buried in her bag, as it always does during class time.
When she answered the school phone, her son, Steve, was on the other end. It was about her young grandson, James.
“He said, ‘Can you grab the girls?'” Louise told Mamamia. “‘James has got Leukaemia and we have to go down to Brisbane.'”
Two words ran through Louise’s mind.
“F**k, and why? Why, why, why?” she said. “You look to see why this would happen to this little boy, this little eight-year-old boy that’s done nothing to anybody.”
James’ diagnosis was Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, a type of cancer that affects blood and bone marrow. According to the Leukaemia Foundation, roughly 300 Australians are diagnosed each year, and though the disease can affect people of any age, 60 percent of cases occur in children aged under 14.
While cure rates are more variable among adults, thankfully, the majority of children with ALL can be cured with proper treatment.
Signs and symptoms of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.
ALL is characterised by the overproduction of immature white blood cells, called lymphoblasts or leukaemic blasts. Because the bone marrow is unable to make adequate numbers of red blood cells, normal white cells and platelets, people with ALL become more susceptible to anaemia, recurrent infections, and can tend to bruise and bleed more easily.
For James, it began with a sore tooth. It was a Friday afternoon in late December when he first complained of it. Louise, who often cares for him and his twin sisters after school, had noticed that the young boy been more listless and irritable that usual, that he’d gone off his food.