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Harrison's Story

Harrison first starting experiencing pain in his left leg early In December of 2013. At first the pain seemed like a niggly sports injury or as a GP diagnosed - growing pains. These explanations seemed reasonable. Harrison is an active 13 year old who participated in all kinds of sports. However, over the coming days and in particular nights the pain became worse. The pain at night was the most concerning and what I thought was most unusual.

Never had Harrison woken at night with pain and certainly not this type of pain. Being the eldest of three children we have certainly known sporting injuries and aches and pains but nothing like this. We went through December managing the pain as best we could with different pain relief medication and trips back and forward to the Doctor. Nothing could explain what might be going on.

And then mysteriously the pain totally disappeared. Nothing at all for three weeks. Then towards the end of January 2014 the pain was back and was worse than ever. We went to the Doctor again and then a physiotherapist who referred us for an ultrasound. The ultrasound showed a very small tear in his quadricep.

The physiotherapist assured us this was the cause of the pain and we would need to perform some strengthening exercises as well as visit the physiotherapist once a week. Harrison was told he was unable to participate in sport of any kind which was very hard. Harrison was frustrated with the pain and the fact that it was not getting any better.

Returning to school in February was very hard. The pain was back at night and as a result Harrison spent many nights not being able to sleep. He became more and more tired. I let the teachers at his school know of our troubles over the Christmas break. His teachers confirmed into the first couple of weeks of school that Harrison was very tired and unable to concentrate in class.

One morning Harrison sat at the kitchen table and burst into tears. He told me he had hit rock bottom, he couldn't sleep, he had pain, he felt miserable. Then one afternoon in the second week back at school when Harrison came out of school he was walking with a limp. This very much concerned me. It was then that I thought I really needed to amp up the investigations and find someone who would take my very deep seeded concerns seriously.

On February the 19th we visited a different physiotherapist who was immediately concerned with the symptoms Harrison displayed. A few days later we were referred to a sports physician who during our appointment sent us downstairs for an Xray. The Xray confirmed my worst fears - highly visible was a large irregularity within Harrison’s femur. I was unable to stand up from my chair, my legs wouldn't work. I was paralysed with fear.

Somehow we made it through that night and the next day an MRI was scheduled. This was the longest hour of my life. I sat in the MRI room with Harrison whilst he had the scan. The room was freezing, the noise was deafening and I cried the entire time knowing in my heart that something was very wrong.

We left the MRI appointment and within 40 minutes the sports physician called - the MRI confirmed what she had suspected. It very much looked like Harrison had a very rare form of bone cancer known as Ewing’s Sarcoma. We had never heard of Ewing’s Sarcoma.

What was it? How did he get it?

Our sports physician referred us to an orthopaedic surgeon in Sydney who in turn referred us to Westmead Children’s Hospital. This was where we very quickly began to understand the world of childhood cancer. We arrived in Sydney on Sunday and by Friday, after further extensive testing, Harrison had received the diagnosis of Ewings Sarcoma. Our world fell apart. We instantly had to decide how we would manage the care and treatment of Harrison, our two other children and the fact that we live in Canberra. Initially all of Harrison’s treatment had to occur from Westmead. This was incredibly hard on all of us. The family being separated for long periods of time. 

Harrison endured 3 induction cycles of chemotherapy, major surgery to reconstruct his leg, another 22 weeks of consolidation surgery, countless blood and platelet transfusions, injections, scans, tests, investigations, intensive physiotherapy; the list goes on. Not to mention during this entire time his grandmother was fighting pancreatic cancer. We lost Harrison’s Nanna, my Mum in September of this year whilst Harrison was in the midst of chemotherapy. Too many hardships to mention.

Our amazing social worker at Westmead Children’s Hospital has been such a support for us and made contact with the Olivia Lambert Foundation. Words will never be adequate to describe the gratitude our family has for the foundation. They have assisted more than we would ever have imagined and will forever be grateful for such support. The work done by the foundation is almost magical.

Harrison still has treatment weeks remaining with follow up scans early into the new year. He has been through more than any, now 14, year old should have too. He has learnt so much about life but missed a year of his childhood. He will forever be changed as will the rest of our family. He not once has ever asked why me? He has never complained even when hospital stays spanned weeks and tests and surgery hurt more than you could imagine.

Childhood Cancer is not fair. The Olivia Lambert Foundation has lifted some of the fog we have been living in. Forever grateful.

- Submitted by Emma Morton, Harrison's mum

To help the Olivia Lambert Foundation to assist other families living with childhood cancer, you canbecome a Sponsor or make a donation.