It has been almost five years since the Squires family lost their beloved daughter and sister Monique to an incurable form of brain tumor.
But their loss remains raw to those they loved, and the continued support from families is something that Bamawm Extension mother Danielle, hopefully from Echuca’s new cancer and wellness center, could provide.
“When someone is diagnosed with cancer and dies, it affects the whole family,” she said.
“Some people think, ‘They will be right, they will get over it,’ or it will get easier for them over time. Unfortunately not, you miss your child anymore.
“It doesn’t get easier, it’s the same every day; I live without my daughter, whom I loved very much, and I think it would really help to support grieving parents and children in our community. “
Monique was three years old when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain tumor, diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG).
Affectionately known as “Cheeky Monique-y”, she was a daughter of Darryl and Danielle, younger sister of Olivia and twin of Zoe (now 13 and 10 years old, respectively).
“We had this little girl who was happy, adventurous, always smiling, and very naughty,” said Danielle.
“You never expect something like this to happen.”
Prior to her diagnosis, Monique had had dizziness, headaches and vomiting. In early September 2015, she ended up at the Royal Children’s Hospital after visiting the Echuca Hospital emergency room.
“[At the children’s hospital] We were told there was nothing they could do for Monique, she had DIPG and we had six to twelve months with her, ”said Danielle.
The family decided to buy Monique time by trying radiation treatment at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Center in Melbourne.
That meant the family would split up while Danielle and Monique traveled to Melbourne for three hours while Darryl stayed with Zoe and Olivia at Bamawm Extension and kept their business going.
“We have a family in Melbourne who helped, but we stayed at the Ronald McDonald House, across from the Children’s Hospital,” said Danielle.
“We had a transport that picked us up for Monique’s treatments at Peter Mac’s in the morning and then went to the children’s hospital for other appointments in the afternoon.
“It was a difficult time for Monique and the whole family.
“Monique had to be knocked out of her treatments because she had to lie very still. So she went through a lot of anesthesia at that time.
“She was very brave – the bravest little girl I have ever met.”
The family noticed a change in Monique after treatment; She was able to do things she was too uncomfortable to do, like going for a walk, and they had a good few months together.
“Then we noticed another change, she had difficulty walking and it got worse,” said Danielle.
“There are only a limited number of radiation treatments that they can offer – the tumor grows so quickly and where it is in the brainstem it is difficult to reach.”
Monique died in October 2016, 13 months after her diagnosis.
“We were lucky in a way; some families are less fortunate. In those 13 months, we and Monique created even more precious memories that we will keep forever, ”said Danielle.
During Monique’s diagnosis, Danielle found Cure Starts Now Australia through BTAA (Brain Tumor Alliance Australia) – a parent-run fundraising organization that aims to find a cure for DIPG.
But she said having a dedicated cancer center in Echuca where families like hers could access information and support like advice could have made things less stressful.
“It would definitely have helped us as a family to have something around,” she said.
“They tell you to go home and make memories, but at the same time you dropped this bomb on us. How do I get through the next six to twelve months? How do we do it as a family?
“I don’t think anyone can really prepare you for this, but having some resources on how this will play out – because this is the first time something like this has happened to us.”
Danielle is and spoke to the new Echuca Regional Health Cancer and Wellness Center Ambassador flow September for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Construction has begun on the new $ 8.3 million center that will provide more cancer and dialysis patients with access to near-home treatment and care.
Lyn Jeffreson, director of ERH’s day care nursing ward, said the new center will focus on helping patient carers and families on the journey through cancer by providing access to support groups, wellness programs and referrals when needed.
“We know that it is not just our patients who are going through their cancer experience, but it has implications for their entire support network,” she said.
“An important goal of the new center is to offer a holistic approach to cancer treatment that includes the partner, the caregiver and the patient’s family.”
ERH has now reached $ 880,000 on its $ 1.3 million fundraising goal, and Danielle encouraged the community to stand up.
To donate to the Cancer and Wellness Center, visit erh.org.au/cancerandwellness or, to host a fundraising event, call Fundraising Coordinator Shari Butcher at (03) 5485 5087 or email [email protected]
To donate to visit Cure Starts Now in Australia thecurestartsnow.org.au
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