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Real Stories

Nate and Rachel’s family story

After Rachel’s son Nate was diagnosed with cancer she felt emotionally distraught for over a year. “I just found social settings way too overwhelming.”

Rachel lives in Springfield, Queensland with her husband, Josh, sons, Nate, eight, Jack six and Zane four. In December 2020, at the age of four, Nate was diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

With three kids under four, life for the family was busy but fun. Rachel had her own small business working at home with the boys.

“Nate is very caring and kind-hearted, and he feels things very deeply. He’s very thoughtful.”

After three long weeks of knowing something was wrong but getting no answers, Rachel took Nate to the doctor and asked for a blood test to clear things up and rule out leukaemia, even though he looked completely fine and there were no symptoms. That night a phone call from pathology confirmed what Rachel was thinking. Nate had leukaemia.

Nate started treatment three days later. The two younger boys were taken out of Kindy so they wouldn’t bring germs home to Nate, and for the first six months, Josh stopped working. Rachel had a small business at home and had to stop that too.

“The first 30 days it was very intensive chemo. With COVID and the hospital was going in and out of lockdown and for the first two and a half weeks, I only saw Nate twice in that time, because I was at home with her two youngest while Josh was in the hospital with Nate.”

“I coped with that by just getting everything ready for a chemo patient to come back to your house. So, I was just getting the carpets cleaned, getting the air filter cleaned, getting water purification added onto our home taps and things like that. He was sharing a room with his brother, so we moved him to his own room.”

Rachel shut down for 10 months and didn’t speak to anybody unless she knew that they knew that Nate had cancer.

“I was so emotionally distraught for a year and a half. I made sure I did not put myself in a position where I was meeting new people because then I would have to say the words out loud and then I would also have to deal with the look on their face. I didn’t have the emotional strength to deal with their response.”

Some of the chemotherapy was so strong that Nate would get ulcers all through his mouth. “He lost his hair. My husband is bald, so then all three of the boys actually shaved their heads, so, they were all just bald, like Josh is normally.”

Rachel’s mum helped a lot with the two younger boys. “Josh would often take his two up to his mums in Toowoomba as well, so then they would have fun. Both of our parents helped a lot, which was great.”

“Josh connected with Redkite, he’s on the portal. We were given the Red Bag and that was our hospital bag, permanently packed in the car with all our clothes and toiletries, always ready to go. So, that was really great. Having a bag that that’s all ready to go to hospital, but that’s such a big thing. When your kids spiked a fever and you’re at home and you call up oncology and they tell you to get to the hospital straight away, you just actually hop in the car and go because when you get there, you could be there for weeks.” 

The family accessed financial assistance for household bills through the portal.

“It really helped when the car registration is paid and you’re not going to have to deal with that for another six months or a year. That financial assistance is super practical and very helpful, especially when you do have these extra costs of hospital parking, antibiotics, just all the other ancillary things that then it’s really great to do when you have someone at your house with chemo, like getting the air filters cleaned and all those things.” 

Josh accessed Redkite’s counselling services.

“Josh did group sessions with other dads, and I know he found that good and helpful because for him, he really struggled. To talk to other people that completely knew and understood, that was really helpful for him.”

“I coped very poorly. I stopped working completely for two years because I just found social settings way too overwhelming.”

Nate finished treatment February 2023.  “He actually rang the bell at the Queensland Children’s Hospital so hard that it fell off!”

“Nate is in grade two this year and Jack is in prep, and Zane is in Kindy. So, this is the first year where they’re kind of all off to school, which is lovely.” 

“Redkite helped us at the very beginning, straight away financially and then a year after. Nate had just finished treatment when I started the JobAccelerator, so that’s like two and a half years later. Redkite is in it for the long haul because it is such a long journey. Thank you. It’s very easy for charities to provide support at certain stages, but I feel like Redkite really does through the whole pathway, which is amazing.”

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