‘Never did I think my child would have cancer’
WHEN her son was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia at just nine years old Gold Coast nurse Natasha Hunter felt like the world had been ripped out from under her.
She took him to the doctor with what she thought was a normal virus - only to hear the words: "Harry has leukaemia."
Diagnosed with Philadelphia Positive Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL), Harry was whisked away almost immediately for treatment.
Ms Hunter, a nurse at Gold Coast University Hospital, said it was brutal to feel so out of control.
"Other than hearing the diagnosis for the first time, the hardest part was handing my beautiful boy over to doctors in theatre the next day," she said.
"He went in to have a central line inserted for his chemo, a bone marrow biopsy, a lumbar puncture and to have his first ever chemo inserted into his spinal fluid.
"He was so brave. He told me he loved me over and over again until he drifted off asleep. This was the moment it became real, the moment it hit me."
Over two years of treatment Harry spent eight months in the hospital and was left unable to walk for a year. The slightest fever was a major setback.
After going into remission in February, the 12-year-old has become one of four young Gold Coast University Hospital patients to feature on "patient tokens" sold to fundraise for Scrub Up September.
The annual fundraising month is in its third year and for the first time has chosen to focus its support on its child patients.
Eighty businesses, schools and individuals have signed on to help.
Fundraising manager Vicki James said 27 new participants had joined the campaign, an increase on last year of 33 per cent.
"It means we're connecting more with the community which is what we'd aimed to do," she said.
"To have some new ones enables us to increase our funds, but also to have a bigger reach with the impact we have on our community."
The hospital hopes to raise $40,000 to buy equipment for the children's ward and interactive play activities for both inpatient and outpatient areas.
For Natasha Hunter, who still works at the hospital, the foundation offered support during her family's darkest days.
"I never thought this would be us, never in my wildest dreams did I think my child would have cancer," she said.
"But that happened in literally a second and life isn't the same again. You come out into a new normal after the treatment.
"You just don't know what's around the corner. It might be you one day, and even if it's not, so many other children will appreciate it."