Family in for long cancer battle

Max Townshend's bright smile and head full of hair

Last updated 12:00 27/03/2014
Max Townshend
LITTLE BATTLER: Max Townshend, 3, has been battling acute lymphoblastic leukaemia since March last year.

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A bright smile and head full of hair is proof enough Max Townshend is back on his feet, a year after his cancer diagnosis.

The Palmerston North 3-year-old has been battling acute lymphoblastic leukaemia since March last year. His parents, Justine and David, had become concerned about his health and their doctor made a late-night visit to break the news.

"Now he is in the maintenance stage, where he will be for the next couple of years," Mrs Townshend said. "It's the last chapter in the treatment so, because he is in remission, it's maintaining that - if they stop it they know it comes back."

Max is now having chemotherapy at Palmerston North Hospital every 28 days, a lumbar puncture at Starship children's hospital in Auckland every three months and oral chemotherapy every night before bed.

He will continue treatment until he is six.

Mr Townshend said he was initially relieved to hear Max would be in the maintenance stage. "We didn't think he would still have as many drugs to take and that it would be easier," he said. "He gets really sick from the chemo and because he is older now he understands what is happening and why, so it just stops the whole family."

Mrs Townshend said Max's chemotherapy medications caused him to be neutropenic, reducing his white blood cell count and putting him at risk of infection.

"His immune system hasn't got anything to fight off infections," he said. "He might be fine for a week but the next week we could all be in isolation."

One morning before Christmas last year, Max was rushed to hospital after an episode of unconsciousness believed to be caused by a build-up of mucus in his airway.

"I looked over at Max and he was quite quiet and pale," Mrs Townshend said. "I called his name and he was blue so I ran over and picked him up and he was floppy.

"I called Dave and he grabbed him and took him outside and started shaking him to get him breathing while I called the ambulance."

Mr Townshend said Max had another episode in the ambulance.

"It was the most scary thing because we thought we were going to lose him," he said.

"We're wary of it happening again because it was never really put down to anything."

Mr Townshend said the treatment left the family in a position where a normal lifestyle wasn't possible.

The family are thankful for community support and donations through the Givealittle website, which has generated about $10,000 and allowed them to buy a reliable car and pay their bills as Mr Townshend has reduced his work hours.

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Feilding man Nigel Towers had Max Townshend in mind when his whacky coloured hair and beard were shaved off for charity.

Mr Towers lost his purple locks and red beard in the annual Shave for a Cure event on March 22, the anniversary of Max's diagnosis. The annual event is run by Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand, encouraging people to lose their locks to raise money for people with blood cancers.

Mr Towers dedicated his shave to Max and raised $2000 for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand, exceeding his $500 goal.

"Before I decided to get this done I hadn't met Max at all," he said. Mr Towers has previously raised money for the Cancer Society and volunteered in Christchurch.

"We all know somebody who knows somebody who does have it [cancer] and it's just something that I can do," he said.

"I've actually been amazed with the amount that I have raised so far."

- Manawatu Standard


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