Four-year-old Everly has endured more health treatments than most would in their lifetime. When Everly was just 18 months old, she was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma – an aggressive form of cancer that has a poor prognosis.
“It all started when Everly was feeling slightly unwell,” Everly’s mum, Shannon said.
“She had bruising around the eyes, fevers, a stiff neck and was feeling cranky. The doctors thought she had a virus, but as a mother I knew something wasn’t right. Two weeks later she was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma.”
Before Everly’s second birthday, she had six rounds of chemotherapy and her first surgery to remove a tumour in her abdomen.
Her battle didn’t end there – after surgery she developed ascites, a condition where her abdomen filled with lymphatic fluid. Everly’s surgeons had to repeatedly put her under general anaesthetic to drain the fluid from her abdomen and during this time she could only be fed intravenously.
Everly then went on to have a dual stem cell transplant, including very high dose chemotherapy over the course of four months, confined in a sterilised and isolated room in the hospital.
“It was so emotionally taxing on the whole family because Everly is the youngest of our three kids, and my husband, Patrick, and I had to spend a lot of time away from the other children while we cared for Everly in hospital.
“Everly’s immune system was so weak due to the cancer treatments so we had to take extra precautions when it came to infection control. Any diseases or infections could have been life threatening because her little immune system was not able to protect her.”
Everly’s next treatment included 12 rounds of radiation therapy, followed by six rounds of intensive immunotherapy treatment in the hospital, during which a special nurse had to stay in the room to watch over Everly around the clock.
After a tumultuous two years of cancer treatment, Everly’s family finally got the news they had been longing for – to hear that Everly was cancer-free.
“Our second daughter, Ava, had to spend a lot of time apart from Everly because as another young child, she risked bringing in diseases. We were so happy to be able to spend time together as a family again.
“We were not able to take Everly out to parks, playgrounds, shopping malls or other public places for a long time because of her weak immune system. Finally, we are able to start living our lives outside the walls of the hospital.”
Everly now only visits the Queensland Children’s Hospital every six to 12 weeks for routine check-ups and loves playing, dancing and spending time with her sisters.