Son's cancer battle second fight for family
WHEN their 12-year-old son started experiencing headaches 10 weeks ago, Natalie and Rick McPherson never expected the cause to be cancer.
But that was just the start of it.
The Grafton family is now in Brisbane while their son Kane undergoes his first round of chemotherapy treatment.
Natalie said the diagnosis came as a bit of a shock because it all happened so quickly.
"Three months ago he was a normal boy doing normal things. He loves his cricket, he played in three different teams and after cricket he took up 10 pin bowling.
"But then he started getting headaches. I took him to our doctor who asked me to keep a diary and when I took him back he looked at it and said: 'That's quite a lot of headaches'."
The doctor ran some blood tests but they all came back clear.
"Then he broke out in a rash," Natalie said.
"I took him back to the doctors but it was a different doctor and she said she had never seen a rash like that before."
They did a biopsy on Kane's arm and five days later they were back at the doctors because he couldn't lift his arm.
"It had become infected and the infection had spread up into his lymph nodes. He was given antibiotics but we were in and out of hospital."
Kane ended up having surgery to cut out the infected area and went home with a pump to help the granulated wound heal.
Natalie said it still hasn't healed and only a few weeks after being discharged from hospital they were back in the ER, this time with Kane vomiting.
"He became really sick. He couldn't keep anything down."
Then it was another trip to the hospital's emergency department with chest pains. A CT scan revealed he had pneumonia.
The McPherson's were referred to Brisbane's Lady Cilento Children's Hospital and just last week he was officially diagnosed with stage four anaplastic lymphoma.
"It's an aggressive type of lymphoma. It came on so quickly and he's stage four because he has it in a few places including his bones."
But the good news is Kane's oncologist has said his cancer is curable.
"Going to be a long way to go but that was wonderful to hear.
"She did an x-ray a few days ago compared it to the week before and already she can see an improvement so the chemo is starting to work."
Kane is a week into his first of seven planned rounds of chemotherapy.
"Our consultant gave us Kane's chemo plan. He needs to do seven rounds of chemo. That will take about six to seven months."
Natalie said the doctors don't want them to go back to Grafton during that time, they want the family to stay close to the hospital in Brisbane.
"We have accommodation through Childhood Cancer Support at Herston. It is all oncology families. My husband has been staying there because only one of us can stay at the hospital with Kane."
While the McPherson's have accommodation there is still the cost of living, doctor's bills as well as bills for their home in Grafton.
Family friend Renee Zimmerman has set up a Go Fund Me account to help the family with these bills during this difficult time.
"These wonderful people have already endured a fight with cancer, so this is beyond unfair," Renee said.
A few years ago Rick was diagnosed with stomach cancer.
Natalie said he had to undergo chemo before and after major surgery to remove the cancer.
"It will be four years this October since he had the surgery to remove his stomach, spleen, 15% of his liver and 48 lymph nodes."
While Rick is well now he still has to have regular six monthly check ups with his oncologist.
Renee is asking people to donate whatever they can to the Go Fund Me so Natalie and Rick can focus on Kane and his recovery.
"Every donation will be greatly appreciated and Nat, Rick and Kane truly thankful," she said.
Natalie said she wanted to thank everyone who has donated. And Renee for setting the campaign up.
If you would like to donate you can do so here.
While Kane still has a long road to recovery ahead of him, Natalie said he is coping well.
"When we first arrived he was nervous. He had to have surgery - a lumber puncture and a bone marrow check.
"They also put in a gastric nose tube. He gets all his medicines through that because he can't swallow tablets. He's still getting used to it.
"But he's eating a little bit so that's good. He's doing okay."
Kane arrived at the Lady Cilento Children's Hospital just a few days before pop star Taylor Swift dropped in to visit patients.
Natalie said they were star struck to meet her.
"Kane likes her music and so do I. She was lovely and genuine and spent a lot of time with the kids.
"She signed a special pillowcase Kane was given. We are going to frame it for him with the picture of him and Taylor together."
Alexia Purcell is APN Australian Regional Media's social media editor.