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HomeWho Are WeOur StoriesMaggie’s Story

Maggie’s Story

“All I could think about was the mass in Maggie’s chest. I just wanted them to get it out.”

My name is Emma.

I live in a small village called Fordell near Whanganui with my husband Lewis and our four children: Eddie, Annie, Maggie and Ronnie.

In October 2021, everything changed for our family when we found out that Maggie had cancer. She was just six years old at the time. Our lives were turned upside down overnight.

The first signs of Maggie’s cancer were quite small. She had pink cheeks one Monday, then a few days later her face looked quite puffy. A trip to the doctor resulted in the conclusion was that it was a viral infection.

On the Friday, we noticed that a vein in her neck was bulging out. She also started having a funny cough.

I took her to the after-hours A&E in Whanganui that night. The doctor said one of her lungs didn’t sound quite right, so he sent her for an x-ray and in turn a CT scan.

The results were horrifying.

A large mass in her chest had collapsed her left lung and was putting immense pressure on her heart.

Maggie was put straight into critical care. Then the next day, we were flown in an air ambulance to Starship Children’s Hospital in Auckland.

By this point, Maggie was so unwell that she slept through it all. It was her first time in a plane, and she doesn’t remember any of it.

When we got to Starship, the doctors did some more tests on Maggie. That confirmed the one outcome we didn’t want to hear. Maggie had cancer.

It was a form of blood cancer called T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma.

When we heard that Maggie had cancer, Lewis was able to stay more positive and reassuring, but my head went straight to the worst-case scenario.

All I could think about was the mass in her chest. I just wanted them to get it out. The thought of something so disgusting inside of my baby girl repulsed me.

Maggie and I had to stay up in Auckland for a month for her initial treatment. They put her on steroids to shrink the tumour and then she was put straight onto chemotherapy to treat her for leukaemia.

It was so hard watching my little girl go through the brutal treatment and procedures. It broke my heart seeing her beautiful hair fall out.

But Maggie took it all in her stride. Even on the really tough days, she just got on with it. At one point she asked me if having cancer was as bad as having a broken arm.

One of the scariest moments took place just before Christmas that year.

Everything had been going pretty well, then just before Christmas she got a fever. For most kids that isn’t too serious, but for children with cancer like Maggie, it is a medical emergency.

There were a couple of scary points where Maggie’s blood pressure dropped, but luckily she came through the fever okay.

While Maggie was on treatment, we wanted to keep everything as normal as possible for the other kids.

That meant Lewis had to stay at home with Maggie’s siblings while we were in Auckland so they could keep going to school.

He cut his work hours down to three days a week, and the children’s grandmother also moved in during that first month to help out.

For Maggie, being away from her siblings was probably the hardest part of having cancer.

Whenever they came up to visit her in hospital (which was very rare due to all of the COVID-19 restrictions in hospitals at that time), her eyes just lit up.

It was hard on the other kids too. I was away for weeks, sometimes months at a time with Maggie. They had to go for long periods of time without their mum around.

Maggie’s older sister Annie found things especially tough. She was quite distressed and started to show signs of anxiety as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) behaviour.

If she was going to her grandma’s house for a couple of hours, she would pack a huge bag with several pairs of shoes, some pillows and jumpers, just to name a few.

And then she would panic, becoming incredibly angry and then inconsolable because she thought she didn’t have everything she needed.

That was her way of trying to stay in control of a situation where there was so much stress and uncertainty.

I ended up seeking counselling support for her, which really helped. The sessions were all paid for by Child Cancer Foundation thanks to your incredible support.

When Maggie first got cancer, I was very reluctant to accept any help.

I didn’t think we needed help from a charity. I was able to continue working remotely, so I thought we would be able to manage.
But our family support coordinator from Child Cancer Foundation said, “Please, let us help you.”

And I was surprised at how much weight fell off my shoulders.

Your support has helped fund grocery deliveries and petrol vouchers, which we have been so grateful for in the more overwhelming moments.

One of the biggest things for Lewis and me has been the Beads of Courage that our family support coordinator brings for Maggie.

Each bead represents the courage Maggie shows during a treatment, procedure or milestone.

When we got her first lot of beads, she had 50. At the time, we thought it was so many.

Now, she has over 1000 beads.

They are such an amazing visualisation of everything she has been through. We love being able to talk through them with Maggie and reflect on how far she has come.

I’m proud to be able to share our story, because I want everyone to know how amazing Maggie is. She inspires me every day.

And although Maggie is the one who’s doing the treatment, Eddie, Annie and Ronnie have been through so much too. They’re all amazing.

Thank you for supporting our family through Maggie’s cancer.

We are so grateful for everything you have done to help us during a really tough time.

Thank you,