I was reading an article the other night and amazed about the struggle of a 15 months old cancer patient,Sam Turnwald. and I want to share to you her stories and it was published under Child Cancer foundation….
At 15 months old little Samantha Turnwald and twin sister Lucy should have been equally bubbly and active toddlers.
Lucy was walking from 12 months but Sam still wasn’t and was struggling to keep up. She would hold out her hands and walk but stopped doing this and cried as though it was hurting her.
Parents Mark and Jo were obviously concerned. Sam was not her happy self and clearly something was wrong.
After two visits to local doctors, Sam was referred to Waikato Hospital. It was Friday night, Queen’s Birthday Weekend, 2004, and after an ultrasound and CT scan, doctors told the Turnwald’s the life altering news all Child Cancer Foundation families have heard – Sam has Cancer.
Sam’s story and that of her family began here; and this year she has been chosen from hundreds of brave cancer kids to share her story as the Face of the 2007 Child Cancer Foundation Annual Appeal.
Sam, Lucy, little sister Sophie and parents Mark and Jo are today an even stronger family united by the trauma and stress of Sam’s early years.
“Of course we were imagining the worse and we had an agonising wait over that Queen’s birthday weekend,” says Jo Turnwald, Sam’s mum.
“We were told to prepare for Starship, but also to enjoy our last complete weekend together for a while.”
After travelling to Starship, Auckland from their home in Ohaupo in the Waikato, a biopsy confirmed stage four cancer – hepatoblastoma, a tumour of the liver, and secondary spots on her lungs. It was a very poor prognosis.
“At first it’s like a death sentence and you think this is it, I’m going to lose my child. The whole period was a blur of feelings,” says Mark Turnwald, Sam’s dad.
“It was such a surreal experience,” says Jo. “I remember a nurse explaining to me that it’s like grieving and she was right. One of the worse things was telling everybody else.”
The first round of chemotherapy started immediately and life for the Turnwald’s began to revolve around the oncology unit at Starship and home.
For the Turnwald’s the support of their family, friends and the Child Cancer Foundation was invaluable at the time and it’s the little things that the family remember, including petrol and food vouchers and the introductory kit.
“I remember one time when I was totally overwhelmed and was sitting in a room crying. A family support worker saw me and must have sensed what I needed, she gave me a big hug and sat with me, not expecting me to talk, until I felt ready to move on,” says Jo.
“For me, once I realised that there was a plan with Sam’s treatment and that we weren’t alone, I could get on with this some what unusual routine,” explains Mark.
“It was important that I was able to keep the farm going mainly to sustain our income but also to give me some structure, but I could only do this because we had such tremendous support.”
Sam had seven rounds of chemotherapy, before facing surgery to remove the entire right lobe of her liver and gallbladder. Three more rounds of chemotherapy followed.
“It was a tough time, especially seeing Sam after the surgery. But the scariest time was when we finished the treatment and left to go home,” says Jo.
For Mark and Jo this was another period of change and worry.
“There was an irrational fear that the cancer would return. I guess it was just a lack of security as it was a change from our normal hospital routine and as the chemo had finished it was unknown territory. Even though you try not to worry you do become more cautious and you are also aware of the possible late effects.”
More than two years post treatment Sam is doing well and while she does have some late effects at this point they’re relatively minor.
Sam has high tone hearing loss, her liver does not function as efficiently, her heart valves have thinned and having no gallbladder means she won’t be able to process fats as an adult but today none of this is holding her back.
The Child Cancer Foundation Annual Appeal is from March 19 – 25.