Fighting back: Cancer picked the wrong princess
THE dinging of a bell was a beautiful sound for the Sanfilippo family. It marked the beginning of the end of a long emotional cancer journey.
For two years Kirsten and David Sanfilippo watched their daughter, Kacey, 4, go through the distressing process of cancer treatments.
The little girl endured chemotherapy up to three times a week, multiple blood infusions, tests and examinations. There were many tears shed by both Kacey and her parents.
Kacey was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in early 2017. Her mother became concerned about her change in personality and bruises on her arms, back and stomach. But it was when purple dots also appeared that Mrs Sanfilippo feared meningococcal.
The Sanfilippos took their daughter to hospital and were informed it was a viral rash; however, Mrs Sanfilippo questioned the doctors about the bruising.
Tired of waiting, Mrs Sanfilippo demanded something be done and within an hour Kacey was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
Mrs Sanfilippo still believes it was "mother's intuition" that saved her daughter.
"I knew something was wrong, I just didn't think it was going to be as terrible as it was," she said.
Mrs Sanfilippo said Kacey had matured quicker than other children her age over the past two years.
"We thought after what she has been through it may make her more reserved but she is the opposite. She is confident, sassy and adventurous," she said.
Mrs Sanfilippo said the lesson she had learnt from this period of time was not to take life for granted.
"Things happen that we can't control but we can control how we get through it," she said.
"It wasn't easy especially in the beginning, everything we had mentally and emotionally went to trying to understand what Kacey was diagnosed with and trying to get her through it.
"It was very stressful, but we learnt to adapt and grow stronger in order to help our daughter survive. Coming home to Mackay after nine months in Brisbane was also difficult as we tried to settle back into a 'normal' life with a child having cancer treatment still. It's been difficult but we are stronger together."
Her advice to other parents going through a similar experience was to take it one day at a time.
Kacey rang the special bell at the Mackay Base Hospital recently, signalling her last intravenous chemotherapy treatment.
"It was very exciting but emotional," Mrs Sanfilippo said.
"When we were walking from the ward to where the bell ringing was done outside the cafe, we were so excited and anxious.
"After she rang the bell I started to cry and I cuddled her so hard. We are just so proud of her. It means we made it. It felt like the end of Kacey's treatment would never come."
Kacey will continue to have oral chemotherapy daily until July 18.
"After that we will go to Brisbane to have her port-a-cath removed and ring the bell at Queensland Children's Hospital. That will signify the very end of treatment for us," Mrs Sanfilippo said.
"After July 18 Kacey will go from fortnightly blood testing to six weekly blood testing and check up. She will be on regular check ups for a long time to come."
Mrs Sanfilippo has shared all the happy and sad moments of Kacey's treatment via the Facebook group Cancer picked the wrong Princess - Kacey's Leukaemia Fight.
She said it was a way to keep in touch with everyone while they were away.
"It's always great to look back on how far Kacey has come from previous posts," she said.
Mrs Sanfilippo didn't hold back with the posts, she showed the trauma the treatment inflicted physically and emotionally on the whole family.
During her treatment, Kacey inspired many people to donate blood.
"I know quite a few people who have told us that Kacey is the reason they put their fear aside and started giving blood," Mrs Sanfilippo said.
"We didn't realise ourselves just how important donating blood was until it was Kacey that needed blood infusions."
Kacey will start prep next year and Mrs Sanfilippo said it would be lovely to see her go off to school.