Palmerston North school boys Brandon, Bede and Brodie have swapped blondeness for baldness, to raise almost $1000 toward their best mate's battle with cancer.
Our Lady of Lourdes primary school pupils yesterday egged on their classmates' shave in support of 9-year-old Ollie Gillespie, absent from their schoolyard since he began treatment at Auckland's Starship children's hospital for Hodgkins Lymphoma, a form of blood cancer, in May.
Brandon Bingham-Tanner, aged 10, and 9-year-olds Bede Gallagher-Forbes and Brodie Drummond said they had decided to shave their heads so he wouldn't look out of place when he returned to school.
"I think it has been pretty tough but he's going good with it," newly bald Brodie said. As to whether the boys thought they looked strange without hair - "It doesn't really matter," came the firm response.
Ollie's mum, Janet Reynolds, said the family was moved by the boys' gesture as well as the generosity of donors from fellow parents to businesses spanning Manawatu to Masterton.
"It's just so amazing that these little kids are getting involved. Ollie was blown away when he heard about it."
She had discovered the growth on her son's neck three months ago.
"Suddenly, overnight, a lump popped up on his neck and it was about half the size of an apple. We got told: ‘Don't worry it's nothing' but we kept pushing and pushing and the X-rays found something wasn't right."
Specialists found the mass had been growing for about 10 months, invading almost a third of Ollie's left lung.
He had since undergone harrowing chemotherapy sessions, and had spent much of his treatment in isolation.
"Skype has sort of been his best friend in terms of keeping in touch with people," Ms Reynolds said. "It has been a bit tough on him but he doesn't complain, it's just a bit hard being away from school and his friends. He's really looking forward to coming home and seeing [them]."
Strings of colourful beads illustrated the young boy's ordeal. He now has nearly 200 of them, each different colour or type representing a stage of his treatment. The black beads mean a needle prick, and the lime green represent isolation, bed-rest or neutropenia.
Our Lady of Lourdes School principal Jacinta Cousins said the children had coped with seeing one of their own go through intensive cancer treatment.
"Apparently all he wants to do is come back to school," she said. "The children have all seen directly the effects of his treatment but everyone has been really amazing in their support and they wanted to something for him."
The Starship staff had made the family feel at home and the children's camaraderie kept Ollie going too, Ms Reynolds said.
"The support that Starship and the staff offer is amazing, as well as the Ronald McDonald Family House. We have met so many amazing children going through different forms of cancer, many of them much worse than Ollie's, and it's amazing to see how brave and resilient kids are and has shown us how indiscriminate cancer is."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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