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Real Stories

Mackenzie and Adrian’s story

When Mackenzie was diagnosed with cancer at 12, her dad Adrian was devastated. Just over two years earlier, the family lost their mum to cancer. With incredible strength, the family once again came together to support Mackenzie through her treatment.

When Mackenzie was 12 years old, she showed her dad Adrian a swollen lump on her groin. He recognised the lump as a swollen lymph node. 

“It was probably the size of a 10 to 20 cent piece. I said I’ve had one of them before. We’ll keep an eye on it.” 

By the end of the next day, the lump had grown considerably. What followed was a trip to the doctors, a seven-day course on antibiotics and a growing list of questions for Mackenzie and her family. When the antibiotics didn’t work, Mackenzie was admitted to hospital, where she underwent multiple tests, biopsies and spinal punctures.  

After three weeks in hospital, in April 2022, Mackenzie was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. She began treatment rapidly after her diagnosis.  

Two weeks into cancer treatment, Mackenzie was diagnosed with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), a rare disease that causes white blood cells to attack other blood cells. Her cancer treatment was paused in order to treat HLH first. 

“They treated HLH which took them a couple of weeks to get rid of. Then we were straight back onto chemo and getting her back on track of fighting this disease,” Adrian said. 

“Mackenzie’s always coped really well with the treatment, I must say that. And her mother was exactly the same.” 

Two-and-a-half years before Mackenzie’s diagnosis, in 2019, the family lost their mum Stacey to cancer. Stacey was only 36 years old. 

“Cancer had never really touched me in any way. For the first person to be my wife and the second to be my daughter was devastating.”  

The emotional impact of two cancer diagnoses in a short period of time was tough on Adrian’s four other daughters. 

“It was really hard, especially after losing mom so close. And I think that’s where their heads all went straight to – was that they were going to lose their sister as well.” 

The hardest part of Mackenzie’s treatment was the intense radiation routine, part of the conditioning process for her bone marrow transplant when she was 13. 

“Three days straight of twice-a-day full body radiation. Hands down that was the hardest part.” 

High doses of chemotherapy followed the radiation, to strip Mackenzie’s body of anything that might affect the new bone marrow.  

Mackenzie would spend close to 11 months in hospital in Sydney, over two hours away from her sisters, family and friends in the Newcastle region.  

The constant trips from Newcastle to Sydney, in addition to the time away from work, took an obvious financial toll on Adrian and his family. Redkite provided fuel and food vouchers to assist with these costs, in addition to providing the family with a Red Bag on the first day of Mackenzie’s diagnosis.  

“It felt good [to receive the bag]. Mackenzie said she felt loved. It was packed with information and the toys and art supplies were great.” 

After two years of isolation during her treatment, Mackenzie returned to school this year and is returning to a typical routine for a teenager, while receiving ongoing treatment. 

“She’s branching out a little, I’m starting to hear new names and new friends and it’s really, really good.” 

Described as an adventurous and high-spirited girl, with a love of all things rugby league, AFL and cheerleading, Mackenzie is very excited to be running out with the Sydney Swans on April 21 as the mascot for the 2024 Redkite Day.  

She will run out with the team under a guard of honour and have the chance to meet her favourite player – and Redkite ambassador – Issac Heeney.   

To access any of Redkite’s services, call, email or let us know your details and we’ll get in touch with you.

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