For this mum, a tumour on her daughter’s spine has led to a nine-month ‘cancer journey’ that has been terrible and uplifting in equal measures.

The journey began in February when six-year-old Alice from Brunswick Heads began suffering back pain when she lay down. As the pain worsened and various tests were run, a weeklong stay in the local hospital ended when Alice lost the use of her legs.

A special scan revealed a tumour on her spine. “The doctor took me into a room and showed me the scans without saying anything,” says Alice’s mum Carmen, an early childhood teacher. “I knew what it was immediately. The feeling was devastating. The world just stopped for a moment.”

The growth, known as a Ewing’s sarcoma, is a rare form of bone cancer. It was just millimetres from Alice’s heart and lungs, so she and mum were helicoptered to Brisbane for immediate treatment.

“I’d been told the treatment would take nine months and I hadn’t even considered how I might live through this; how I might take care of myself so I could take care of Alice.”

Carmen stayed on the ward with Alice for the first few nights, hundreds of kilometres from home and her other daughter, Willow, 14. A social worker then introduced her to Ronald McDonald House.

“I walked across to the House and the staff showed me around and showed me my room. They said I could stay there for as long as I liked. It was such an amazing relief that I just broke down and cried.”

“Ronald McDonald House Charities kept us together as a family and gave us some normality.”

“My other daughter Willow was away at the time and came to Brisbane on the day of the surgery,” Carmen recalls. “When she last saw Alice she was healthy and happy, then in Brisbane Alice was unconscious after six hours of surgery. It was quite traumatic for Willow.”

“The fact that Ronald McDonald House gave us all a place to stay and so much support meant that Alice, who is now very healthy, was able to recover from treatment more quickly. It kept us together and gave us some normality. We met a lot of people on the same journey as us, which was also valuable.”

“I know it will sound strange,” says Carmen, “but the cancer journey we have been on this year has been amazing in certain ways.”

“It has introduced us to incredible people, shown us a different side of life and has made us appreciate things so much more. I will now always be thrilled by everything that is good in life. It has really opened my eyes.”

 “When you’re in that situation, you cannot even imagine how much it means to have a bed to sleep in, a place to make a cup of tea, a balcony to escape to for a little bit of time to get your thoughts together, and people looking out for you. I’m so grateful. The Ronald McDonald House staff and volunteers made our journey amazing.”

Every year over 7,500 families like Carmen's stay at Ronald McDonald Houses. Help us to keep making a difference, supporting these families when they need it the most.


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