CANSA Relay For Life

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Ethan’s Story

Ethan celebrated his 6th birthday while enjoying a lovely holiday in the north of the country in December 2012.

His family was looking forward to the following year because Ethan was going to Grade one, big school! His crisp new uniform was waiting in the cupboard for the big day.

On the drive home from the holiday on 31 December 2013, Ethan became ill with flu-like symptoms and he became nauseous and feverish. His family decided to take him to the hospital because there were no doctor’s offices open as it was old year’s eve.

The doctors at the hospital were puzzled by his symptoms and sent him for a chest x-ray because Ethan had an irregular heartbeat and shortness of breath.

Ethan was admitted immediately afterwards with imminent cardiac arrest. His parents’ world halted. Ethan was a healthy six year old, he was hardly ever was ill. His mother could not even remember when his last visit to a doctor was. They contemplated heart problems, a congenital heart defect, maybe?

On the first day of 2013, Ethan was moved from the normal ward to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit where a pediatric cardiac specialist performed an emergency procedure to extract the build-up of liquid in the sac around his heart, a pericardial effusion. This build-up of fluid had caused cardiac tamponade which resulted in Ethan’s heart not pumping enough blood to the rest of the body and this was life threatening.

On the 5th of January, Ethan’s and his family’s lives had changed forever when a biopsy was done by a cardiothoracic surgeon and Ethan was diagnosed with Stage 2 Non-Hodgkin T-Cell Lymphoma.

They had not seen cancer coming: “Cancer barged into our lives and attacked our boy. Cancer does not knock at the door; it sneaks in, settles and waits.”

The treatment to eradicate the cancer that was rapidly invading Ethan’s body began immediately. Cortisone treatment was prescribed to prepare Ethan’s body for what was to come, the course of six, 5-day high intensity chemotherapy treatments starting in January 2013. Instead of starting big school, Ethan started the most important and hardest fight of his life.

How do you explain to a child that they have cancer, when it was so difficult for his family to come to terms with it? That he would spend the year in and out of hospital? But Ethan took it like the champ he is.

Cancer stole his hair, his eyebrows, his eyelashes, but never his smile and his optimistic attitude about fighting this dreaded disease.

It is astonishing how quickly one adapts to long term hospital stays, infection controls, protocols, procedures and endless tests. With the support of family and grandparents, his family was able to provide Ethan with 24 hour care, while in and out of hospital, day and night shifts; and to also ensure Ethan’s two year old brother Zachary experienced a normal as could be expected childhood.

25 September 2013, Ethan was declared cancer free and his two-year remission period began. Three years later, Ethan and his family are in a much better place. Ethan is ten and cancer free and his family are eternally grateful. Cancer was kicked out of the front door and they continue to hope and pray that he will remain cancer free for the rest of his life.

Their family motto is simply gratitude; gratitude that Ethan survived and that he is thriving and living a normal childhood.

“We will forever more support the Fighters; Admire the Survivors; Honour the taken, and above all never, ever give up hope!”  – Ziska McGilton


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