When MacKenzie Isedale was first diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, no-one in her family was prepared for the gruelling 727 days they had ahead of them.
Mackenzie, 11, was playing with her sister Jordyn, 16, during the Easter school holidays in 2016 when her lips turned white and she was taken to hospital for a chest x-ray.
Doctors quickly determined she would need further tests at the Children’s Hospital at Randwick, in Sydney, before the horrible diagnosis was given to her parents Errin and George.
“To hear those words ‘your child has cancer’ it really hits home then,” mum Errin tells Be.
“I was numb, scared and wanting to wake up from this nightmare.”
Her first stint of treatment was nine months of intense chemotherapy, followed by up to 18 months of continued ‘maintenance’ treatment. And the family from Mittagong, NSW, spent that time travelling back and forth to Sydney.
“They said it was the most common and most curable cancer in kids, but that’s two years of treatment which is such a long time for a child,” Errin tells us.
“I had ovarian cancer when I was 17, and I was operated on in October and had finished my treatment by March, so I couldn’t believe she had to go through this for so long.
“We were really lucky to be able to stay at Ronald McDonald House. Our first stint was 107 nights where she was in and out of hospital for treatment.
“It was full on.”
The treatment was extremely toxic to Mackenzie’s body, which saw her constantly spiking temperatures and needing to stay in hospital, sometimes for a week at a time.
She even ended up in a wheelchair after the treatments affected her nerves and joints, leaving her unable to walk.
“She was in a wheelchair for three months and that was the hardest time, she was in constant pain, had a mouthful of ulcers but he was so positive and resilient and inspiring,” Errin recalls.
However while the treatment was “intense and terrible”, Errin says MacKenzie was nicknamed “captain smiley” around the hospital.
“As a whole, she took the treatment quite well. She always had a smile on her face, couldn’t sit still, and was a social butterfly. She hated being confined to a bed during the chemo,” she says.
On the 11th April 2018 Mackenzie completed her final chemo treatment, and she was able to ring the bell to celebrate on May 9.
Thankfully her final scans have also come back clear, and while she will need a blood test every month, MacKenzie can finally get on with life.
“You look at her and think ‘you should not be so grown up’,” Errin says.
And after everything she has been through one would forgive MacKenzie for wanting to get as far away from the word ‘cancer’ as possible. Instead though she has become an ambassador for the Children’s Cancer Institute.
“Lots of people have helped me I just want to help other kids,” MacKenzie told her mum.
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