"Lymphoma is a Journey we take together"
Kristen was born a beautiful healthy bouncing baby girl on 16 September 1996.
Her older sister Rebecca was so excited to have a baby sister and couldn't wait be able to play with her. We were just excited to have another healthy daughter.
Kristen was always happy. She always had a cheeky smile on her face and always made us smile too. Her sense of humour and happy disposition was infectious to all. As Kristen got older other kids were drawn to her kind and gentle nature and she was everybody's favourite.
Kristen was a very active and popular little girl and growing up was always busy with her swimming and dancing. She danced at Brent St School of performing Arts from age 3 to 10 years old. She enjoyed the dancing and the made many friends but swimming was her passion.
She absolutely loved the water and is a fantastic swimmer. She was junior and senior swimming champion in primary school and has been in the Meriden Senior swim team since Year 7. In other words she has always been a strong, healthy and active girl.
Not the type of girl you'd expect to be diagnosed with cancer at age 13….
Fast forward to mid June 2010 and she developed a nasty cough. We took her to the doctor and they diagnosed the usual…"it's a virus, give her antibiotics and she should be fine". One week of antibiotics and no progress on the cough and now her glands were swollen. Another visit to the doctor and an ultrasound was ordered and more and different antibiotics were prescribed.
The ultrasound revealed swollen thyroid and neck glands and we were told that it will go down in time as the antibiotics kick in. The antibiotics never kicked in and the swelling got worse. Her chest also started to swell. As soon as her chest started to swell I knew this was not just a virus. On 1 July 2010 I rushed her to Westmead Children's Hospital.
Kristen was diagnosed with a rare type of non-Hodgkin B-Cell Lymphoma with a mediastinal mass in her thymus gland. Emergency Chemo commenced on her second day in ICU.
Now there's a way to have your whole world crumble before you. Just like that! From one minute to another. Nothing will ever be the same again. Even when she is better our outlook on life has changed forever.
The tumour in her chest measured 11 x 9.5cm in size. The superior vena cava (the large vein which returns blood to the heart from the head, neck and both upper limbs) was nearly closed and blood flow to the heart was severely obstructed.
She had blood clots in the veins in her neck and blood flow to the brain was restricted. (The blood clots took 3 months to clear).She had a chest drain inserted in her back to drain the fluid in her lungs. Over 2000mls of fluid was drained out of her lungs over three weeks.
She could not lay flat on the bed for fear the tumour would suffocate her. In fact she didn’t get her first CT scan done till nearly two weeks after she was admitted because she could not lay flat in the scanner.
She dropped 11 kilos in a week as she lost all the excess fluid.
Radiotherapy commenced in January 2011 everyday for two weeks.
Although the tumour has shrunk dramatically it is still there and active but with each scan it gets weaker….and so we wait till the next scan.
Finally, we received the news that we had been waiting for. The tumour has gone and Kristen is in remission!