Community pitches in to support cancer baby

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 17/06/2013
baby cancer
LIVES CHANGED: Nicola Greville and her son, Marcus, who was diagnosed with leukaemia a few days after his first birthday on March 24

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Marcus Greville had his first birthday on March 24; a few days later, his parents were told he had leukaemia.

When he is old enough to understand, they hope to tell him how he brought out the best in a community and teach him how to return the favour.

The younger brother of sisters Maria, 5, and Juliette, 3, had a few knocks early on. He contracted bronchitis at 5 months old and, while that was quite normal, mum Nicola said he never really picked up afterwards.

He suffered perforated ear drums, ear infections and a respiratory tract infection, and was not sleeping well.

Nearing her wits' end and worried his pale complexion might be a sign of anaemia, she took him to the doctor and asked for a blood test on the morning of April 2. A few hours later, the doctor arrived at the Grevilles' Hastings house and told Greville and husband Stuart that Marcus had leukaemia.

Their lives changed in an instant.

They went straight to Hawke's Bay Hospital and the next day flew by air ambulance to Starship children's hospital in Auckland.

For the first few weeks, Nicola Greville stayed with Marcus, then managed the occasional weekend at home with her two girls while her husband flew to Auckland. The pair sometimes had minutes together while swapping places.

Now Greville is coming to the end of her first week at home since April and flies back to Auckland tomorrow.

Marcus was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia, which causes an overproduction of white cells.

It is rare in children, who have a 50-60 per cent chance of being cured.

He has had more than 10 lumbar punctures, and after one he stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated.

"The hardest part is holding him while he's being anaesthetised," Greville said. "He hates that.

"Then I have to hand him over."

Marcus is in his third round of chemotherapy. His last round begins next month and, by August or September, all going well, he will return home. Greville said the family could simply never give enough thanks to their families or the community for the support they had been given.

Neighbours have mowed their lawns, parents from the girls' Mahora kindergarten and St Mary's School bring meals to their house several nights a week, and friends have organised fundraising functions to help cover transport costs.

The kindergarten has held a fundraising disco and parents from St Mary's also held one last week. Others have organised a raffle and held a fundraising family fun day that attracted a few hundred people. "All the facilities, food and drinks were provided, with prizes donated, including hunting trips and huge pamper packs," Greville said.

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"We had a bouncy castle, face-painting, it was like the A&P Show.

"We couldn't believe it. In this day and age I think you're inclined to think there's not as much of a sense of community as there once was, even perhaps when I was a kid. But after going through this, I can say it's huge."

She lost her own mother, Heather, to cancer five weeks before Marcus was diagnosed. She was 59.

Throughout it all, Stuart Greville has tried to keep working fulltime and the couple are determined to do all they can so he can keep up with his work.

Support from the Child Cancer Foundation in Auckland and Hastings had been "incredible", Nicola Greville said, as had Ronald McDonald House.

"The people that work there deserve medals. They're amazing.

"Stuart and I have spoken about it and, at the end of all of this, we will certainly be doing back what has been done for us."

- The Dominion Post

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