Can you imagine taking your sick child to the doctor and finding that the standard treatment doesn’t work? Not knowing how to get your child back to health is one of the most devastating feelings a parent can experience.
Medical research plays a pivotal role in understanding how diseases evolve and it is thanks to advances in research that better treatments and cures are found to help sick children.
When Imojen was 12 years old, she began experiencing severe headaches. She was feeling lethargic and didn’t want to play sports. Her mother Mel said “Imojen was an active teenager and would never take a day off school. When she told me she wanted to stay home I knew something was not right.” On closer inspection Mel noticed Imojen’s lymph nodes were enlarged and she had bruises all over her legs. She took her to a local hospital for a check-up, where a blood test confirmed there was an abnormality and she was transferred to Melbourne immediately.
Imojen was diagnosed with leukaemia, and she received intensive chemotherapy for the next three months. She was non-responsive to this treatment and her cancer cell count was too high for her to receive a bone marrow transplant – which was the only option to get her in remission at that stage.
Imojen spent most of the year in hospital. Mel shares, “This had an impact on the whole family as my husband had to stay home with our two boys whilst I stayed in Melbourne with Imojen.”
After trying three trial drugs from America, doctors collected a sample from Imojen and MCRI researchers discovered a particular change in the genes of her cancer that raised the possibility of a very specific targeted treatment.
Imojen had a positive response to the new treatment and it allowed her to proceed to a bone marrow transplant – a curative treatment that otherwise might not have been viable.
Three months after the bone marrow transplant surgery and now in remission, Imojen was released from hospital cancer-free.
“I think it’s very important to continue research into childhood cancers because without this research my child would not have had access to the many trial drugs her doctors prescribed to try to help her. We were lucky the last one worked for her and now she’s alive and healthy”, Mel says.
Finding the answers for children like Imojen is what keep our researchers motivated, curious and working around the clock to find cures and better treatments to help children in Australia and around the world.
You can help children like Imojen by making a generous donation to MCRI that will make a positive difference to the lives of seriously ill kids and their families. Together we can change lives and give hope to children just like Imojen.