FOR THEIR LAST HURRAH AND FUNDRAISING EVENT, YEAR 12 ARE HOSTING THE WORLD’S GREATEST SHAVE ON WEDNESDAY, 14TH JUNE
Our amazing students and staff, led by Ms Shaw have set an impressive target of $10,000 to help support families affected by Blood Cancer.
On 14 June, our staff and students will shave, snip or colour all for this worthwhile cause.
DONATE TO YEAR 12’S FUNDRAISING
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Many of our own families here at St Dominic’s College have been directly afflicted by this insidious disease. We thank you for sharing your stories of hope below.
Welcome to our World’s Greatest Shave event hosted by Year 12. This is our first ‘shave’ after participating in the Light the Night event over the past five years. During their time at the College the boys have been exposed to these two events through my own experience and unfortunately, some of their friends. Our hope is to assist with funding to aid research into this insidious disease.
Ms Shaw’s Story
In November 2016, my son Ryan, was diagnosed with Biphenotypic Leukaemia, which means both Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) and Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL). Due to the lack of funding for research into this rare type of blood cancer, his treatment was based around ALL and therefore it has a ‘poor prognosis’.
Ryan lost his battle just three weeks into his treatment due to a blood clot in his brain. His unexpected passing had an impact not only on us as a family but, also the doctors and nurses working with him. They are an incredible group of people.
The care and support Ryan was provided with during his time in hospital was so positive and pastoral it brings me great comfort. The various volunteers from the Leukaemia Foundation were there most days to check-in, provide advice and support, and hope in this unexpected journey we found ourselves on.
As a mother the need to do something was powerful. I couldn’t help my child but maybe I could do something to help others. So, in 2017, my daughter and I participated in our first shave event, raising just over $40 000 from the amazing support of our family, friends, work colleagues and the Class of 2017 (more affectionately known as ‘my boys’).
The Class of 2023 have joined forces to make this a college wide event. Please support our vision of giving hope to others.
Year 12 Pastoral Coordinator 2023
Student Experience 1
Now a thriving 17-year-old currently studying for his HSC, this young man is looking forward to seeing what the future holds for him. While applying himself to his studies he also enjoys playing every sport possible, football, basketball, is a black belt in Martial Arts as well as loving to play the drums.
This was not so when he was four years old. Luckily, he does not remember most of his journey however, his mother remembers it vividly and her account follows:
He woke up with a high temperature, a pain in left side and was extremely lethargic and struggling to walk. We knew that there was something seriously wrong, but never could I have imagined what was ahead for our family. After taking him to our local hospital and having some tests done, the doctors gave us the devastating news, that he had leukaemia. He was transferred by ambulance to Westmead Children’s Hospital urgently where he underwent more tests to determine what type of leukaemia he had, within hours doctors informed us he had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL). An operation was necessary to put in a central line and this started his 2-year treatment plan of undergoing intensive chemotherapy, along with countless amounts of blood and platelets transfusions, bone marrow aspiration and biopsies and long stays in hospital were just a few things he had to endure.
Over the course of this time life became extremely tough emotionally and physically and had a massive effect on our whole family. With the help and support of some amazing charities like Camp Quality, Make-a-Wish Foundation, Cure Our Kids, The Red Cross and The Leukaemia Foundation some days were made just little bit little easier and brighter.
Student 2 (In his own words)
My cancer journey began towards the end of year 6 (2020) when I started to have extreme pain around my shoulder blades and puffed-up eyes. This happened over a period of 2-3 weeks. My parents took me to the doctors but each one said it was probably allergies however, none of the allergy medication was working.
Suddenly one day I lost all movement in the right side of my face, my mum took me to yet another doctor where I was sent to the Nepean hospital in fear that I had Bell’s Palsy or had had a stroke. I was attended to straight away and had some blood tests.
A few hours later the doctor took my parents into a room to have a private conversation without me, I knew it wasn’t good news. The doctor basically told my parents that I had abnormally high levels of white blood cells, he wasn’t sure but thought it could be cancer so just to be sure I would be sent to Westmead Children’s Hospital. At this point I still had no idea what was going on with me.
When I was at Westmead, I continued having lots of tests, one or two days later my oncologist confirmed that I had Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), and in that moment I went into shock and started crying.
I started my first round of chemotherapy, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had only seen movies of people with cancer. I can tell you now it’s pretty similar, there is definitely a lot of vomiting and my hair started to fall out, so I decided to shave it all off.
My treatment for AML was intensive as I was told my type of Leukemia was very aggressive. It was 4 months of chemotherapy in my central line as well as into my spine for my brain and many lumbar punctures. I was also put on a trial for an immunotherapy drug. Although it was a terrible experience, I will never forget the support from my family, friends and all the doctors, nurses, and staff at the hospital. They did everything to make me smile each day. Smiling is hard when all you want to do is vomit and feel so tired all the time.
After many rounds of treatment, I was able to visit home as long as my blood levels were good enough. I loved being home and missed my room. Unfortunately, during one of my visits home I suffered a seizure. It scared everyone including my brother who found me in my room. My dad immediately helped me and my mum called the ambulance and I had to go back to the hospital. Apparently, it was due to the timing between my chemo treatments and my brain could not cope, resulting in the seizure. I also had cuts to my face from falling to the ground. They did multiple tests on my brain after this however, everything came back clear.
I finished my final round of chemo and finally got to ring the bell (the bell signifies the end of treatment with no traces of cancer in my blood). Everyone was so happy.
I got to go home but had weekly blood tests at the hospital, as each test showed up clear my check-ups turned to monthly, then 2 monthly. I am currently having check-ups every 4 months; my next test is in August where they will also check my heart.
The following story has been generously shared by the student’s mother. Due to his age at the time of diagnosis, many of the experiences are more vague to him, but they are etched in Mum’s memory forever.
A few weeks he turned 9 we received the devastating news he had Leukaemia. After receiving the diagnosis, we were sent straight to Westmead Children’s Hospital and he was admitted as an oncology patient. We were still in disbelief and still holding on to hope that they’d made a mistake until we received confirmation from his specialist.
His airways were restricted by the masses of Leukaemia cells that had formed around his neck and thymus gland and the cells in his bones had multiplied so rapidly and were crowding the bone marrow and causing him agonising pain. Initially, things seemed to improve. As the treatment rapidly broke down all the cells in his body, his breathing improved as the clusters of cells were gone. There was a naive optimism that the dreaded C word wouldn’t be such an ominous battle. Jump to around week four or five of treatment and that’s when the cumulative effects of the intensive frontline treatment took their toll. His liver was severely compromised and he lost the ability to move his legs. He developed peripheral neuropathy which led to excruciating pain and meant he couldn’t be touched, yet he couldn’t move without assistance.
And so it went for 700 more days, side effects caused by the treatment that was supposed to save him that imminently caused greater risk from the complications. Treatment is brutal. Life was on hold, yet days and moments continued to pass.
The sound of him ringing the bell to signal the end of treatment was so bittersweet, so incredibly joyful mixed with a fear of being too hopeful. Then Covid hit! It’s a strange paradox when you’re LESS isolated in a global pandemic than prior to it.
April 23 of this year marked 5 years since cancer cells were last detected in his body, the day he hit remission. Today he is a young man with strong morals and convictions. Rather than being bitter about his experience, he is focused on being better and stronger every day. Every day he works harder than most to do what most take for granted, though his answer would likely be that others have it worse than him.