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Just before his second birthday Willem was falling ill with colds and ear infections and not getting better. Then his mum Michelle noticed a lot of bruises on his body. She took Willem to the doctor, where he underwent a blood test. A few hours later the results were in and the family were told to prepare for the worst – young Willem could have cancer.
Michelle picked her two daughters up from school and took them to their grandparents, and then drove the four hours from their home at Young to Sydney and spent the night in Emergency with Willem. The next day he underwent a range of tests, which devastatingly confirmed Willem had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.
He was immediately started on a course of steroid treatment and then went through five rounds of chemotherapy, spending the majority of the next nine months in Hospital with his mum by his side, while Willem’s dad Mark stayed at home with their two young daughters.
Willem suffered a number of side effects from his treatment including nausea, ulcers and also leg weakness and didn’t leave his bed for two months.
“Willem also stopped talking for a while, I think he was in shock from what was happening to him. He had no energy and just wasn’t himself,” Michelle said.
Once Willem had undergone his initial treatment, he was put on maintenance chemotherapy for 18 months, which he could take at home, monitored by his local doctor and the Hospital’s Outreach Service for patients living in rural and regional areas.
Willem is now in remission and has started pre-school.
“He just loves pre-school and being able to do what other kids do like going to the park or swimming pool,” Michelle said. “He was left out of so much before and now his sense of humour has come back and he is enjoying being a normal kid.”
“All of the staff at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick go above and beyond what they’re paid to do, they are all fantastic and you couldn’t get through something like this without them all,” Michelle said.