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Tess and Hugh's story




My name is Tess. Jordan (aged ten) and Hugh (five) are my beautiful sons. In June 2012, our lives were turned upside down. I had taken Hugh to the doctor’s for what I thought was severe constipation. It turned out to be a Stage 2 Wilms tumour – a form of childhood cancer.


By the end of the day, we were admitted through the Emergency Unit at the Royal Children’s Hospital and, after a CT scan, I was informed that Hugh would need an operation to remove the tumour, followed by six months of chemotherapy. Three days later, the tumour (weighing 1.3 kg) was removed along with his left kidney.

I’m a sole parent, and, in the past, I have been able to handle the needs of my children together with my career and study commitments. However, this experience changed everything, and I felt I was no longer in control. Suddenly I was confronted with Hugh needing chemotherapy and the ramifications of that treatment while also caring for Jordan.

On our first day at the hospital, we were given a Redkite Red Bag which was uncanny because I had arrived at the hospital with nothing.


This bag had everything we needed, like toiletries for me, a teddy for Hugh, games for Jordan and essential information about support services.


I wondered “Who is Redkite? I want to know more”. So many people in my situation don’t know about Redkite and the amazing services they provide.

Once Hugh’s chemotherapy was nearing an end, he had a CT scan to confirm all was clear. To everyone’s shock, a second tumour was identified requiring another operation to remove the cells from his left lung and far more intensive chemotherapy treatment. It was now labelled as Stage 4 Wilms tumour.


For me, one of the hardest things was telling Hugh he would need another operation and more chemo. His behaviour changed – he became angry, difficult, fearful, and Jordan was sad. The second time around was a lot harder as I realised it was more serious and Hugh would become very ill.


My family live in another state and my friends thought I was over the worst. It was hard for me to confide in anyone. I felt more isolated, overwhelmed and as if I was drowning. That’s when I reached out to Redkite.

I rang Redkite and they made me feel special. They were incredibly resourceful. They were able to help me financially by paying household bills. They offered to help ‘without judgement and with pleasure’.


I discovered that I could also access Redkite counselling independent of the hospital. They were there for me and provided wonderful insights. And Jordan was able to access a counsellor as well.


Redkite also has an extensive Book Club for families to use. They mailed out some books for us to help with the boys’ emotions. Jordan and Hugh loved the stories and totally identified with the characters, and I noticed an improvement in their behaviour.

From my experience, Christmas 2012 didn’t feel like Christmas. It was not a joyous, happy time. Receiving Redkite’s Christmas hamper was very touching. I have been so fortunate to have Redkite’s unconditional support and genuine care for my family. There are so many people who don’t realise the extent of what Redkite has to offer.

We don’t know what the future holds. Hugh may need to have more treatment. I take one day at a time, and I am trying to be grateful for each and every one. Sometimes I wonder if I can go through it all again, but I know that I won’t be alone because I will have Redkite’s support.


Hugh's journey


 – November 2013


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