Two of our young residents are going through some giant sized challenges at the moment, but the Glen Innes community has made sure they don’t feel they have to do it all on their own.
Seven-year-old Poppy Challacombe and Bradley Knox (11) were both diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, and have spent most of their time since then having treatment in city hospitals.
A trivia night organised by the Glen Innes Lionesses to support Poppy, Bradley and their families was attended by more than 300 people and raised $14,000.
This amount was further boosted by an incredibly generous, and anonymous, donor who chipped in $10,000, allowing the Lionesses to give $12,000 to each family.
Bradley’s father Steven and his partner Renee said the money would go a long way to assist with the expenses associated with Brad’s treatment.
Bradley was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a bone tumour, in April, and has been undergoing chemotherapy at the Westmead Children’s Hospital in Sydney since then.
The family is currently at home while Bradley has a three week break after completing a punishing round of radiation and chemotherapy.
Soon they’ll return to Sydney for another nine cycles of chemo.
The family drives to Sydney where they stay at Ronald McDonald house.
Steve has been unable to work since the diagnosis, while Bradley’s 16-year-old sister, Annabell, helped out by shaving her head and raising more than $2,000.
Renee said the donation from the Lionesses would make a huge difference to the family, to ease the pressure of the cost of living away from home.
Like the Knox Family, the Challacombes have also called Ronald McDonald House home while Poppy is treated at John Hunter Children’s Hospital.
Poppy’s father Murray, a chef, has been unable to work since Poppy was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia on Valentine’s Day.
Like the Knox family, life for the Challacombes has been turned upside down.
Poppy’s mum Casey was recovering from surgery herself when she first noticed unusual bruising on her daughter.
“We’d been at the Glen Innes Show, so I put it down to the fun of the bumper cars,” Casey said.
“A couple of days after that she woke up and she couldn’t walk. Next thing we were in an air ambulance on the way to the oncologist at John Hunter.”
The family, including four-year-old Percy, have basically lived at the hospital since then.
Adding to the difficulties for the Challacombes has been a lack of family support – Murray’s parents were both killed in a car accident a couple of years ago.
Murray has also had his own health problems, and at one point, Casey had both her husband and her daughter in separate wards of John Hunter, and found herself running between them.
“We put a lot of that down to stress,” she said. “And of course you don’t worry about your own health when you have a sick child. People say you should look after yourself, but you just don’t.”
Poppy has completed nine months of chemo and Casey said they are now hopeful she can enter the maintenance phase, 18 months of monthly hospital visits with oral treatment at home in between.
While Poppy’s prognosis is good, she will need ongoing treatment and care. The family is now looking at moving to Armidale so Poppy can be closer to specialist treatment, and Percy can enroll in school there.
“Our finances have been decimated,” Casey said. “It can be a pretty isolating experience when you don’t have that support network around you. It’s a juggling act.
“This $12,000 will basically help us to move to Armidale. It might not seem like such a significant amount to some people, but it means the world to us.
“At the moment we really don’t know what the future looks like.”
Casey pointed out that sadly, there are three children with cancer at Glen Innes public school and two at Guyra.
“That’s only the ones I know of, and the younger sibling of another child at Glen Innes also has cancer.”
She said doctors did say it was unusually high, but it’s impossible to know if there is any link between the cases.
The Lionesses donation also included $1,000 from the Glen Innes men’s shed.
School Teacher Mrs Bryant raised $1542.55 by having her head shaved on the night, while the auction raised S2,750.00 and the silent auction $985.00.
Justin Arthur presented the night of trivia and the auctioneer was Jim Ritchie.