Rebecca Michelle and son Xavier (2), wearing his 'Beads of Courage', relax at home in Mosgiel. Photo by Brenda Harwood
The Michelle family, of Mosgiel, have been through some tough
times in the past 18 months, as young Xavier has undergone
treatment for cancer.
The brave youngster, who turns 3 next month, was diagnosed
with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in March, 2012. This week,
he proudly showed The Star his multiple strings of ''Beads of
Courage'', each of which denotes a medical procedure, an
experience, or a milestone.
The first year after Xavier's diagnosis was ''full-on'',
especially at the beginning, his mother, Rebecca Michelle,
''We were called into the hospital at 6pm on a Monday night,
after a blood test, and Xavier and I were out on the first
flight in the morning to Christchurch,'' Mrs Michelle said.
Xavier's father Gareth and older brother Oliver (4) travelled
up by car for what turned out to be a seven-week ordeal.
''It was a huge disruption to our lives and there was a lot
of intense stuff in the first weeks,'' Mrs Michelle said.
''That first year was full-on but things have tapered off a
bit now,'' she said.
Back in Dunedin, Xavier has monthly chemotherapy at Dunedin
Hospital, a three-monthly spinal tap and daily oral
chemotherapy. The treatment is set to continue until May
''It's constant, and it is a long journey but he's doing
really well,'' she said.
The support of the Child Cancer Foundation had been great
throughout the family's journey, she said.
''They understand what you are going through and they are
there if you need to ask questions.''
Providing comfort and courage
Practical as well as emotional support have been the
cornerstones of the Child Cancer Foundation's work with
families in Otago and Southland for the past 25 years.
Last Saturday night, foundation members gathered in Dunedin
to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the foundation, and to
honour the work of its founder, the late Professor David
''It was amazing on Saturday night to see families who were
involved 25 years ago, still there supporting other families
in the region,'' Child Cancer Foundation Otago-Southland
regional co-ordinator and family support co-ordinator
Christine Donovan said.
The Child Cancer Foundation's focus was ''very much around
support by families for families'', Ms Donovan said.
Working in partnership with health professionals, the
organisation had been able to help about 200 families across
the region during the past 25 years, she said.
This included providing practical support such as petrol and
grocery vouchers, educational support, and help with travel -
as all families had to go to Christchurch for at least part
of the treatment. Emotional support was provided one-on-one
and when families came together at social events, Ms Donovan
The foundation also provided the ''Beads of Courage''
programme, which rewarded children undergoing treatment with
colourful beads, along with the ''Sibling Beads'' programme.
The Child Cancer Foundation nationally is celebrating its
35th anniversary this year.