Bianca - The story so far

2007 was supposed to be our year. It was supposed to be the year that we would achieve a whole lot of things. Caitlyn was born 22 February 2007 and during my pregnancy I spent a lot of time researching other career opportunities. We were in a very noisy neighbourhood so I was really looking forward to moving to a new rental home middle June when our agreement would expire. The plan was that Caitlyn would go to daycare from 1 June and I would be able to start work again.

At the beginning of May Bianca developed tonsillitis. Bianca didn't get sick easily and even when she was sick, she would seldom become grumpy, emotional, clingy or lose her appetite. So the tonsillitis came as a shock. Bianca had no interest in food and would cry if I just leave the room and of course it became quite challenging because Caitlyn had her own demanding needs - being a typical 3 month old.

I felt really excited middle May when I managed to find a brand new rental home, newly built. It seemed like a quiet, nice neighbourhood and I was ready to settle down. So we signed a rental agreement for a fixed period of 1 year. I thought life could not be better when I was asked for a last-minute interview as project coordinator on 29 May. On the 30th, I was made a job offer, which I accepted. Later that day, I was with Bianca at ballet. As I was tying up her hair, I felt a big lump at the bottom of her head underneath her hair. I got a bit of a fright, but felt sure that it was probably just because of the tonsillitis. When we got home, it was too late and I knew we would not be able to make a GP appointment at short notice, so we decided to leave it until the Saturday and then Terence would take her to the local hospital (Kenepuru).

We had lots of plans for the weekend, but decided to take Bianca to Kenepuru first. I was busy doing dishes when they came back. "And what's news?" I was fully expecting Terence to say "aah, nothing to worry about, just part of the tonsillitis". But instead he said that he needed to take Bianca to Wellington Hospital for further blood tests. It was a funny mixture of irritation and feeling a bit worried, because spending the day at the hospital wasn't exactly on my list of things to do.

Eventually Terence phoned to say that Bianca needed to stay in hospital. She had low red blood cells and platelets, needed a blood transfusion and would be going into theatre on the Tuesday (the Monday was a public holiday). I wanted to know if Bianca could at least come home and go back on the Tuesday, but they wanted to admit her. I started crying and Terence just said that I shouldn't worry because it might be nothing.

Of course the first thing I did when Terence hung up was to search the internet. In most instances "leukemia" would come up. It was the longest day of my life. I paced restlessly up and down the corridor, into the different rooms, then back at the computer searching, hoping for a better explanation and I prayed, the whole day that whatever Bianca had would be cureable and treatable and I cried each time I thought about my little girl in hospital, she's never had to stay in hospital before.

It was late at night when Terence came home to get some stuff, some clothes and toys. I drove with him to the hospital so that I could have the car the following day.

On the Monday I went to the hospital relatively early. I just arrived when Terence asked that we have a chat outside the room. We were in the corridor and he said that Bianca had leukemia, but they would not be sure about the type until theatre the next day. I just stood there in the corridor, holding Caitlyn and I cried. I went to change Caitlyn's nappy and Dr Anne Mitchell came in to find out if I had any questions. All I could do was to shake my head, I wasn't really able to talk.

When I went home I typed up a whole list of questions. I thought that when it was time to meet with the doctors to discuss treatment, at least I would have something to pass to the doctor so that I wouldn't have to speak if I wasn't able to.

I remember the meeting was quite confusing. Dr Anne Mitchell said that Bianca had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and assured us that Bianca would have a high chance of success, that it is easy to treat, but that treatment had to start straightaway. There were so many things she spoke of, words I never heard of before in my entire life. The whole meeting became a blur.

I had to email my new employer to let them know that I had to withdraw from the job offer. We had to cancel Bianca's 4th birthday party which was scheduled for the 9th. We couldn't cancel the cake so decided that we would have a small party at the hospital for Bianca anyway and the Child Cancer Foundation invited some of the other children, they organised some balloons and snacks and even a very special present for Bianca. Of course I nearly cried when we all sang happy birthday and Bianca had this excited smile on her face, clapping her hands. My heart nearly broke when she turned to me and said "but mommy, my friends aren't coming".

As a family, we celebrated Bianca's birthday on the 18th of June. It turned out to be a late party because Bianca needed a blood transfusion and we ended up leaving the hospital at 20:00.

For the first 6 months it will be intensive weekly treatment sessions, thereafter we will hopefully be able to go onto maintenance. Treatment will take approximately 2 years.

To date Bianca has coped really well with the treatment and we haven't had many side-effects. She started losing her hair and because it was irritating her we decided to shave it all off. So Terence and I shaved off our hair as well just so she would not feel alone.

Whilst we expect the journey to be difficult and challenging from time to time, we have decided to remain positive and just to take one day at a time - almost like running a big race - we know the end goal, but we are just taking one step at a time.

We are overwhelmed by all the messages of support from friends and family, so a BIG thank you. Also the staff at Wellington Children's hospital, the Child Cancer Foundation, Polyhigh Childcare Centre and the Plimmerton- as well as Forrest Hill Presbyterian Church congregations.