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Real Stories

Stephanie and Archie’s story: Our community rallied around us

When Stephanie’s son Archie was diagnosed with cancer, their family and community came together and rallied around them, supporting them every step of the way.

Stephanie lives with her three sons Archie, five and Hugo, seven and Theo, nine and husband, Ryan in Beechboro, WA. 

Not long after the family had moved back from Christmas Island to Beechboro, in September 2021, Archie, then three years old, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). 

Before Archie’s diagnosis, he was in childcare, Stephanie was working full time, helping run a family business and Ryan was an electrician.  

“We’re a very close family. We have a large family. We’re all together 99.9% of the time. Archie is everything about princesses. He is every bit of Disney, princess, castle, everything. He is larger than life. He has always been that way since the day he was born. He is loud, proud, and you will notice him anywhere. He will make sure you notice him. He loves wearing his princess dresses. It’s so funny because he loves all these princess things, but he’s not delicate in the slightest. So, he’s the biggest brute of a boy running around in a dress. He just does not care. He is just so happy to be alive and run around and being crazy.” 

Stephanie recalls Archie being sick for a while before his diagnosis. “He had night sweats; he was sleeping all the time. He was so pale. He actually had an operation two weeks prior to finding out.”

Nobody in the hospital picked up anything was wrong, until five days after Archie’s appointment, when the family were told it was AML. They were dealt another blow when they were told Archie’s cancer was genetic, and it meant he was going to have to have a bone marrow transplant. 

“Archie’s treatment was horrible. The first few days he got a bit sick, but then it’s just weeks on end because then neutropenic for so long with the chemo that they give them is, it could take six weeks for his counts to come back in. It was just nonstop.” 

Archie’s cancer treatment happened during COVID which meant both Stephanie and Archie couldn’t have visitors.  

“We were in a locked room for weeks on end. Each round of chemo was just me being locked in a hospital with him. So, it was very hard for my other boys.”

“We had so many families that were coming and staying here, being more involved in their life, but it was definitely a big hit to my boys.” 

Stephanie and Ryan’s family and community rallied around them. “The community did fundraisers for us, and both our families would have the kids if it was a weekend. Ryan would come home, stay, drop the kids at school, come to a hospital, spend the whole day at hospital and then come home to get all boys from school. It was a lot for him, but my boys needed that stability. I probably spent 90% of the time in the hospital, not at home.” 

The hardest challenges Stephanie and her family faced while Archie was going through the treatment was all being separated from each other. 

“It’s not just adding cancer into your life, it takes over and your life becomes it, and then the kids lose one of us. Everything just stopped and because my husband and I couldn’t work, everything in their life changed.  We tried to minimise as much as we could, but when you’re not working and there’s no money coming in, everything becomes stressful.” 

With both Stephanie and Ryan having to leave their jobs, the financial stress was starting to build. They were introduced to Redkite by a social worker, who gave the family the Red Bag.  

“Maybe two weeks into treatment. We had a social worker that came out and we got our amazing Red Bag full of goodies, and it’s such a perfect size as well because you can bring all your stuff in. We still have that bag now. We use it for everything. I think it’s one of those omens as well that it’s been with us for the whole time. It means more than just this crazy little red bag.” 

The family sought financial assistance for bills and used the food and fuel vouchers from Redkite.  

“Redkite helped us pay our council rates and bills when they were coming in. You already feel like you are treading water, just trying to do the best for your kids, and then you can’t put food on the table on top of everything else. It’s like another kind of failure you feel.”  

“The financial helps you can breathe a little bit better and puts smiles on the kids’ faces and helps to put food on the table.”

“Redkite really does make a difference because I used to read the stories on the Redkite website about the different kids and it’s that thing that you’re just not alone in this world because you get taken out of the world you lived in before and you’ll put somewhere new and everybody else is still over in that world and you’re not. 

Because of the vouchers, I don’t even know where we would have been, what we would have done and the pressure that was lifted, no matter how big, how small it was, it felt like everything to us at that time. At every point you feel like someone stood with you. There was always someone within arm’s reach when you needed, and it’s nice to know that someone still sees you in the sea of madness.” 

Archie came home in May 2022, so that was after his bone marrow transplant. Both Stephanie and Ryan have gone back to work. 

“We are two years’ post-transplant and we’re having all of our two-year appointments, but everything is looking really, really good. Archie’s just so happy and resilient. He’s done really well at school. He’s such a kind, even though he’s so loud and boisterous, he always manages to make other people feel good.”  

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