L-R ISS cleaning staff Kate Webster, with Briar Miller, and ISS cleaning staff Jackie Smith
I’m Briar, I’m 18 and proud to be a ‘Senior Ambassador for Cure Kids’.
I first became involved with Cure Kids in 2010, when I was invited to attend their Annual ‘Ticket to Hope’ weekend in Queenstown, where they take 12 children, with life threatening illnesses away for a fun weekend experiencing new things and allowing us to forget about how sick we all were. I was asked to become an Ambassador for Cure Kids soon after this, and have happily spoken at and participated in numerous fundraising events over the years.
Cure Kids fund research into life threatening childhood illnesses like Leukaemia and they are currently doing research at Otago University to find out what triggers cancer.
I really hope they find a cure soon for Leukaemia, so other children don’t have to go through what I had to.
10 October 2007, is a day our family will never forget.
Soon after my 7th Birthday, I wasn’t feeling well, so Mum took me to the doctor. I needed a blood test. My parents then got the devastating phone call late that night, telling them to get me straight to Waikato Hospital, as I was very sick. They suspected I had Leukaemia, and I needed to get to Starship Hospital urgently for a Bone Marrow Aspirate in Theatre, to ascertain what form of Leukaemia I had.
I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (33% of children diagnosed with cancer get this and it is the most common childhood cancer), and without urgent chemotheraphy, which had to start immediately, I was told I only had 2 weeks to live.
Pretty scary really….
We initially stayed at Starship Hospital for 2 weeks, and my Dad and 3 brothers spent a lot of time living at Ronald McDonald House. Mum stayed with me 24/7 in my room on Ward 27B, the Oncology Ward, the ward you DON’T want to be on, because it means you are a Cancer Kid!
My treatment would continue for 2 ½ years and was very intense, I required chemo every day. As Leukaemia is cancer of the blood, every cell in my body was malignant. That’s an awfully long time, but it would take that long to kill off every bad cancer cell in my blood.
My treatment was shared between Waikato and Starship Hospitals. During this time I got very sick and caught a lot of infections (which can be fatal when you have no immunity system to fight anything off).
I spent a total of 120 nights in isolation in hospital with infections alone.
I was also forced to have 18 months off school during this time. I had a teacher from Northern Health School visit me weekly at home to try and keep up with my school work. I also had a few very special primary school teachers and friends who remained in contact and visited me at home when I was well enough.
Every 12 weeks, I went into theatre for a lumbar puncture under a general anaesthetic, where they injected chemo into my spine and tested my central nervous system for cancer. I had numerous painful injections into my bones and muscles and IV chemo every few days.
Each month I was on a weekly course of steroids, which increased my appetite drastically and made me really grumpy and depressed. My family all dreaded my steroids weeks.
Every night for 2 years, Mum needed to wake me in bed to take my required handful of oral chemo tablets.
Blood and platelets transfusions helped keep me alive and gave me some much needed energy and stopped me looking so pale. I ended up requiring about 32 of them.
A big thank you to those of you who donate blood and platelets. It is precious to us and a very important part of our journey and always appreciated by those of us who suffer from cancer.
Losing my hair was one of the hardest things I had to deal with, as I had long blonde ringlets. But, as you can see, it eventually all grew back.
My treatment finished on 12 February 2010, and I have now been in remission for 8 years.
I have earned more than 1500 ‘Beads of Courage’ supported by the Child Cancer Foundation and each bead resembles a treatment I had to have done.
In 2016 when I was 15, I was ‘cured from my leukaemia’ so we had a big celebration and invited everyone who had come into our lives and supported us on my journey.
This year in 2018, I was finally officially discharged from Starship and Waikato Hospital after 8 years. No more monitoring or blood tests required.
I am now in my final year at high school and am looking forward to starting a Teaching Degree next year at Waikato University.
I would like to thank everyone for willingly taking part in raising funds to support Red Nose Day and for your awareness of Cure Kids and contributing to their Appeal this year. Your support has been inspirational.
Money raised on Red Nose Day will help fund research into a range of childhood illnesses and conditions that affect Kiwi kids, including heart conditions, mental health, respiratory issues, childhood cancers and so much more.
Without your support, Cure Kids wouldn’t be able to provide this necessary research and be able to try and Cure Kids like me!