It’s not often you have the opportunity to meet your sporting icon at just six years old, but that’s exactly what happened to six-year-old Gracie who is fighting a double dose of childhood cancer, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) and Lymphoma.
Gracie attending a closed training session at Lathlain Park ahead of The Eagles trip to Victoria to take on Collingwood at the MCG.
Whilst the Eagles are fighting for a final berth on the field, Gracie has been fighting her own battles closer to home for nearly three years.
Back in 2015, after suffering urinary tract infections and severe bouts of pain for six months, she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL). She had only just turned three. Over the two-and-a-half-year treatment period, Gracie endured innumerable and varied chemotherapy treatments, countless invasive procedures and scans, multiple blood transfusions and platelets, regular needling and painful dressing changes, a nasal gastric tube, over 40 trips to theatre and was kept in a hospital isolation room for weeks on end, unable to leave.
She also suffered many side effects from the treatment that rid her body of the leukaemia.
Her treatment also meant she couldn’t do the things other three-year-olds would take for granted, such as a trip to the shops, swimming lessons, playing with animals and attending friends’ birthday parties, as her body lacked the ability to fight infection.
Despite all the setbacks, mother, Catherine, said despite the physical and mental traumas that no child should ever suffer, Gracie has a huge, warm personality.
“She is captivating, creative, funny, charismatic, intelligent, loving, and incredibly empathic. She always carries a beaming smile, no matter what she endures, making the two and a half years of treatment so much easier on those around her who are still struggling to come to terms with it all.
“She has the ability to always make the most of every single situation, and takes great pleasure in helping people and making them happy.”
The chemotherapy was initially successful but after five months, she showed symptoms of a virus-like illness and it was discovered that Gracie had relapsed.
This time the disease had come back refractory and it had mutated. Not only did Gracie have 70% leukemic blasts in her bone marrow, she also had a large lymphoma mass between her abdominal wall. After consulting with specialists all over the world, it was discovered that no one had ever seen a presentation like this, not in children or adults.
Gracie was immediately started a 29-day cycle of chemotherapy which required her to be an inpatient for just over seven weeks. This really took a toll on Gracie emotionally and psychologically.
Gracie was then put on a 28-day course of continuous IV Immunotherapy. It initially required a week’s stay in hospital, then the majority of the rest of the course at home. Scans at the end of this treatment had shown her bone marrow was in remission, and the tumour significantly reduced.
A second 28-day course of continuous IV immunotherapy began and Gracie is currently half way through this treatment cycle.
There is a scheduled bone marrow transplant in August, which increases chances of survival from 5% to 50%, followed by two weeks of radiotherapy.
“Gracie deserves the chance to beat this beast once and for all,” said Catherine.
“She has so much to offer this often bleak world. She is one of a kind, she is here to make a difference, and she will.”
The Children’s Leukaemia and Cancer Research Foundation wishes Gracie the best possible outcome in her up and coming treatment and we know her constant determination and a positive attitude will pull her through!