Preschoolers back brave playmate

Xavier Michelle wears his ''beads of courage'', backed by playmates at Reid Park Kindergarten's dress-up fundraiser day yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh. Three-year-old Xavier Michelle often dresses up for kindergarten but yesterday everyone at Reid Park Kindergarten did it in support of him for a One Day for Child Cancer fundraiser.

For the Dunedin children, it was a chance to dress up and learn more about child cancer, but for Xavier it was just another day in his battle with the disease.

He was full of smiles as he played with the other children and showed them his ''beads of courage'', each one awarded for a treatment procedure he had gone through. He has nearly 500.

Diagnosed at just 18 months old, Xavier has been battling acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, the most common type of cancer in children.

His mother, Bec Michelle, said the treatment was going well and was all on track.

''There is a 90% cure rate for this type of cancer, so his chances are really good.''

Regardless, it was not something any parent would want their child to go through, she said.

Xavier's treatment would take three and a-half years, and for his parents, Bec and Gareth, and Xavier's older brother, Oliver (5), it is a waiting game until next May when his treatment finishes. For the first seven weeks of Xavier's treatment, the family travelled to Christchurch Hospital, but since then he had been treated at Dunedin Hospital.

Xavier was now in the phase of treatment called ''maintenance''.

He visited the hospital once a month for chemotherapy, with other treatment done at home, including oral chemotherapy, daily medication, and steroids once a month.

Xavier also had chemotherapy into his spinal fluid every three months, Mrs Michelle said.

''He doesn't complain and just gets on with it.''

Xavier went to kindergarten three mornings a week, except when he was too ill or too tired.

Because his immune system was weak, he had to stay at home when any bugs were going around.

''We have got to be really careful,'' she said.

Mrs Michelle said Xavier had been ''so excited about [the fundraiser] all week''.

Inspired by Xavier's love for dressing up, the children dressed as what they wanted to be when they grew up. Xavier wore All Blacks gear - he he wanted to play rugby once his Port-A-Cath was taken out, Mrs Michelle said.

Proceeds from face-painting and a coin and paper trail went to Child Cancer.

Reid Park Kindergarten vice-president Janet McDonald said the cause was one close to home and a good way to raise awareness. It was ''a reminder for the kids of what Xavier is going through''. He was one of the kindergarten's ''awesome little people''.

Anyone wanting to take part in the One Day for Child Cancer or donate to the cause can visit the Child Cancer Foundation website for more information.

- Bridget Rutherford. 

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