Aisles of smiles for cancer-battling family

KAT PICKFORD
Last updated 13:15 28/06/2013
Sophie Gilchrist
Emma Allen

Big thank-you: Renwick parents Michelle and Bryan Gilchrist are doing all they can to make sure daughters Sophie, 6, front, and Izabel, 7, have as normal a life as possible during Sophie’s recovery from leukaemia.

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The parents of a six-year-old Renwick girl recovering from leukaemia were overwhelmed to be given a cheque for more than $7000 yesterday.

Michelle and Bryan Gilchrist and their daughters Sophie, 6, and Izabel, 7, received the cheque from the Blenheim Countdown store managers yesterday morning.

The money was raised by shoppers' donations, sausage sizzles and the Redwoodtown, Blenheim and Springlands Countdown stores donated $1000 each.

Mrs Gilchrist, who has worked for the supermarket for five years, said it was another example of how the Marlborough community had reached out to the family since Sophie was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in July last year.

"People ask me every day how she's doing, the community have really taken her under their wing," Mrs Gilchrist said.

"I think people really felt for us and felt for her, and want to feel like they can do something to help, because no child should have to go through this."

Mrs Gilchrist had to leave work last year to care fulltime for Sophie, who went through months of chemotherapy in Christchurch and Nelson.

Going from two incomes to one income overnight was tough, she said.

"That's where the pressure went on, and that's where the community have been absolutely amazing, I really don't know what we would have done without everyone's support."

Sophie's energy belies the more than 340 rounds of treatment she has been through in the past year.

Following the chemotherapy, her hair has grown back, she has returned to school and has to go to Nelson Hospital only once every three months for treatment.

But although she has beaten the disease for now, a full recovery hangs on a severely depleted immune system, which makes her extremely vulnerable to infections.

Mr Gilchrist said their main priority was keeping Sophie warm and healthy, particularly during winter.

They take life one day at a time, he said.

"This experience has put life into perspective, and makes you appreciate the small things.

"It has got easier, but every now and then it still kicks you in the guts."

Sophie faces another 18 months of maintenance treatment before she can be given the all-clear.

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- The Marlborough Express

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