In 2008, the Coulam family had to support their nine-year-old son Zavier through Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL). Fortunately, Zavier survived and doesn’t recall much about the experience, only that it was a really tough time in his life. Today, Zavier is well and is in year 11 at Rangitoto College.
The family thought they were in the clear. Then, in September 2017, Zavier’s nine-year-old brother Logan began to feel unwell, was lethargic and had pain in his jaw. It was totally out of character for the boy who regularly won cross-country races. He was frustrated with his progress despite training hard and then he developed a limp.
Concerned, his parents Kylie and Simon took Logan to Starship’s Emergency Department. The hospital ran some tests and broke the news that Logan had Burkitt’s Leukaemia. The family was stunned. They couldn’t believe another child had cancer. Needless to say it was a huge blow.
Logan’s cancer was classed as aggressive and he was immediately put on a treatment plan at Starship Children’s Hospital. Kylie, a school teacher, left work to be at her son’s side and the family prepared to live at Starship for the next six months. In addition to supporting Logan, Kylie and Simon also had to try to reassure his teenage sister Olivia that she wasn’t going to be next.
Says Kylie: “It was a really difficult time for the family. Logan was sick and everyone was on edge. The only positive at the time was the support we started to receive from Family Support Coordinator Donna at the Child Cancer Foundation and the fact that we already knew most of the oncologists and nurses at Starship. They had become familiar faces while Zavier was sick and it was comforting to see so many people we already knew.”
Having gone through Zavier’s cancer treatment (which lasted three and a half years), Kylie and Simon thought they knew what to expect. Logan’s treatment was completely different though, as it consisted of more intensive chemotherapy treatment. He was sick and exhausted after each round, developed ulcers in his mouth, throat and stomach, had high temperatures and would often shake uncontrollably. His hair also fell out. When he was able to go home between treatments he had to be wheeled around in a wheelchair because he was too weak to walk.
After six months, Logan’s treatment ended and he was sent home. He was still in a wheelchair and had to be isolated to allow his immune system to build up again. Two and a half months later, Logan was able to go back to school. Luckily, he had been able to stay in touch with his classmates while he received treatment so the transition back to school wasn’t too difficult.
Notes Kylie: “While Logan is back at school, life hasn’t exactly gone back to the way it was. His focus and retention aren’t what they used to be and he often has to take a day off in the middle of the week because he’s exhausted.”
“Logan’s zest for life and determination to get back to normal have motivated him to get fit again. He enjoys basketball, so we applied to the Child Cancer Foundation for a grant for basketball lessons. The Foundation approved the grant and Logan now receives basketball lessons on a regular basis. Happily, his hard work has paid off as he was recently selected for his age group’s top North Harbour basketball team.”
While Logan is doing well, he is still in a post-treatment phase, which means there is a chance he could relapse. For now, the family is focused on enjoying their time together and hope that life will start to get back to some semblance of normality again in the near future.