Bayley McKinnon’s Story
We are the McKinnon family, we have three sons and live on the Atherton Tablelands in Far North Queensland. On the 21st April 2014 our lives were shaken when our eldest son Bayley then aged 6 was diagnosed with T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (T-Cell ALL). This a brief story of our journey so far.
It was the Easter Weekend in 2014, Jamie was away at work in PNG and Teresa at home with the 3 boys. Easter Monday, 21st April, Bayley had been a bit flat, had a few bruises appearing in odd places, and complaining about feeling off. At 5.00 am Teresa took Bayley to the Atherton Hospital and 4 hours later they diagnosed him suspected Leukaemia and told that Bayley had to get to Brisbane ASAP. Little did we know that would be the last time Teresa and Bayley would be home in 8 ½ months.
What followed can only be described as a whirlwind! 3 hospital emergency departments, 3 ambulances rides and 1 RFDS plane ride a total of 23 hrs in Emergency Departments. Teresa remembers the looks on the faces of the nurses, ambulances officers, and pilots as they did their hand overs it is a look that you can't put into words, but holds so much meaning. Teresa can clearly remember being physically and emotionally exhausted and sitting in the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) Brisbane emergency department waiting to go upstairs to a ward and just listening to the nursers chatting about how sad it was that a young child had cancer.
Meanwhile Jamie was on flights back home to be with Corey and Archie, then aged 4, who were being looked after by neighbours. Not to alarm the twins or create anxiety Jamie waited 10 days before Teresa said that things had settled down at bit and that it was now the appropriate time to bring the boys down to see their brother and mother. Bayley was discharged from hospital during this time and we were then fortunate enough to be granted accommodation at Childhood Cancer Support (CCS) in Brisbane, it was great to have our little family under the one roof if only for a short period of time.
At diagnoses we were informed that we would be in Brisbane for intensive treatment for at least 6 months followed by a further 3 years of treatment which can be done at home but with monthly trips to Cairns and trimonthly trips to Brisbane. This meant that Teresa and Bayley had to relocate 1830 km to Brisbane while Jamie needed to continue to work to maintain financial stability for his family and job security for their future. This immediately posed a problem to our family because Bayley has twin brothers who were 4 and Teresa looked after them all full time. They are unable to be with Teresa in Brisbane as she needed to focus on Bayley and his treatment, including long treatment days and hospital stays where the younger boys were unable to stay. We also felt that the twins would be better off emotionally having some stability and routine in their lives so we decided to leave them at home in FNQ where they could continue to go to Kindy, be with their friends and in familiar surroundings. Teresa’s mum who lives in North West NSW became a FIFO baby sitter, while Jamie was at work.
Following this visit it would be 9 weeks before our family was reunited again and this was very hard on everybody. So we decided in order to reduce the stress toll and emotional wellbeing of everybody it was really important to reunite the family every month for a couple of days. This was particularly important for the younger boys so that they could see their mum and also try to understand why she needs to be with Bayley in Brisbane. It also helped alleviate any fears that the boys may have had for their brother. Not to mention Jamie having the opportunity to see Bayley and Teresa, and to catch up on information at the coal face with Specialists and the treatment team.
After 4 rounds of intensive chemotherapy and 8 doses of radiation, on the 6th January 2015 we were told we could go home and we were back in FNQ 2 days later. We had been in Brisbane for 8 ½ months. Bayley is currently on maintenance treatment which continues until late 2017, it involves oral and weekly chemotherapy, fortnightly blood tests, monthly high dose steroids, monthly IV chemotherapy in Cairns and every three months in Brisbane for a lumber puncher and IV chemotherapy. At present he is enjoying being back home, at school and getting into our ‘new normal’ way of life.
Bayley is our little superhero, he has shown amazing strength, courage and maturity beyond his years. Teresa, Jamie, Bayley, Corey and Archie would like to take this opportunity to say a big thankyou to the Indiestructables and Indie Rose Foundation for supporting us and allowing our story to be told.