Colin’s cancer diagnosis
Melanie, an emergency physician, was feeling settled, living a dream life with husband Colin, and their two beautiful girls Emily and Lucy. Their world was turned upside down when Colin, also an emergency physician and toxicologist, was diagnosed with advanced stage bowel cancer. After a tumultuous 17 months of treatment, Colin passed away suddenly from a bout of pneumonia.
“We had to go into survivor mode and start rebuilding our new life as a family of three. That wasn’t easy. I had to return to work, and we had to manage the struggles of kindergarten, daycare, me working, and trying to maintain some resemblance of a career, whilst also managing the grief of children as well as my own grief. There were multiple issues, and I felt at times really stretched. We didn’t do a lot in that time. It was really just surviving and just coping with the day-to-day issues of having two small children and being a solo parent.”
Emily’s cancer diagnosis
As life went on, Melanie noticed some unusual bruising on her oldest daughter Emily. She noticed Emily had lost a little bit of her enigmatic, bright, vivacious spirit, and seemed a bit flat. Melanie’s world came crashing down around her again when Emily, six at the time, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in October 2021.
“To have two diagnoses of cancer within two years of each other in the one household just seemed surreal. And once again, I was put in this position where I was completely blindsided.”
Melanie found herself overwhelmed, dealing with the immense emotional challenges that came with Emily’s cancer diagnosis.
“After Colin died, we slowly rebuilt our lives and things started to improve. The girls started school, I was back at work, and I really felt like we were moving forward, and then Emily was diagnosed with Leukaemia. I was completely blindsided. Emily became very depressed and withdrawn, due to high dose steroids and started to lash out at me and because of everything that was going on, Lucy became withdrawn.”
Facing the emotional impact of cancer
Melanie was starting to unravel and struggling to manage at home with Emily’s treatment and didn’t know how to move forward. That was when she found out about Redkite.
“Emily’s school counsellor made the referral to Redkite, and within 24 hours, Sara was on the phone to me asking me about my situation. We were going through some really deep problems associated with grief, loss, and yet again, a disruption to what is normal life, and I was actually able to admit to Sara that I wasn’t coping very well, and that I didn’t have strategies to help us move forward. I was able to open up to her.”
Melanie found that Redkite’s adult and children’s counselling program played a vital role in supporting the emotional wellbeing of her and her girls.
“Sara had a really warm and engaging manner both with me and my girls. I felt I was able to be vulnerable with her and tell her that actually, things aren’t great at the moment. She was a safe place in order to be able to verbalise that.”
Counselling with Redkite Social Worker, Sara
“Sara had a type of therapy that really resonated with my girls, and she was able to speak a language with both my girls through their toys. I couldn’t play with my girls. I was managing the house, my career, and their appointments. I did notice a calm start to descend on the family, things were less volatile. The outbursts and the anger started to dissipate from Emily. And because Emily was starting to settle the flow on effect was Lucy was starting to settle as well.”
For Melanie, it was the acknowledgement from Sara about Emily’s behaviour which was valuable to her. Sara helped her understand there were significant issues and various factors contributing to Emily’s reactions, feelings and emotions, some of it was just being a child, some having cancer, and some of it was her father passing away at an early age.
“Here’s the thing about childhood cancer. It’s not just about the child who’s affected. It’s a family illness and it affects us all in very different ways. I could see there was a great potential that this would harm Lucy and that this would affect the trajectory of her life. There was a gap in our lives that wasn’t being filled by the hospital team and Redkite filled that gap in that they were able to support the entire family.”
Melanie and her girls spend a lot of time at home and love to play board games, read stories together, catch up with their neighbours and play in the parks around their house. Emily and Lucy are thriving at school and Emily’s treatment is due to end Dec 2023.