FAITH McKay has swapped a hospital room for a classroom as the brave little girl battling leukaemia takes another big step towards a normal life.
Although now in remission, she still takes oral chemotherapy every day and will continue to do so until October next year.
There’s extra medication on Thursdays, antibiotics on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and steroids for five days each four weeks, but Faith accepts this chemical cocktail in her stride, even reminding mum Reniet when a dose is due.
Faith eagerly joined her new classmates at Wallangarra State School at the end of last term, bald as a badger and wearing a feeding tube, but eager to learn. Reniet said the kids were so happy to see her that the welcome was a little smothering for the independent little girl, although now she’s one of the gang.
The feeding tube is gone and she sports a handsome head of hair, somewhat to the bemusement of her mother who has become accustomed to seeing her bald.
The challenges of the school yard to someone with such a low immunity is of concern, but Reniet said staff at the school have been educated on her needs and signs of illness and support Faith’s health needs.
Faith still misses school days but Reniet coordinates home schooling so she doesn’t fall behind.
Side-effects from the medication range from exhaustion to hyperactivity and anything in between. The steroids lead to mood swings, but of most concern is the lowered resistance to infection.
“She came off her bike and scraped her knee and two hours later had a raging infection and was in hospital for two weeks on intravenous antibiotics,” Reniet said.
“Now you just have to look at it the wrong way and it bursts open, and she’ll need a skin graft when she’s stronger.”
Any minor infection can wreak havoc and if her temperature hits 38 degrees celsius it’s straight to hospital for a minimum 72 hours on antibiotics. Even when things are going well there are two-weekly blood tests at Stanthorpe Hospital plus regular trips to Brisbane for more tests and lumbar punctures.
She only just escaped having a bone marrow transplant, although the possibility remains on the cards if she comes out of remission. Reniet said she still doesn’t look too far into the future.
“We don’t think about a relapse. We don’t talk about a relapse,” she said.
Faith has lost a few friends she met through the hospital, and Reniet said they know other children whose conditions make Faith’s illness look like a common cold.
“Even at her worst she would still smile and chat, and despite spending all of Christmas Day in bed she said, ‘this is the best Christmas I’ve ever had,’” Reniet said.
Reniet said she appreciates the support she has received from the community, and even Faith’s brother and sister, Connor and Beth have coped really well.
“I say I’m sorry we can’t go here or can’t go there, but it doesn’t seem to worry them. I’m so proud of them all.
“We have good days and bad days, and some days are extremely overwhelming. One thing I’ve learnt through all this is to make the most of absolutely everything, with all of them.”