Father and son face cancer head-on together

26 Aug 2021

Luca is a fighter and his dad, his super hero. At age 11, Luca has had to live with Covid-type restrictions since before the pandemic, fighting what no child should have to.

18 months ago, in February 2020, Luca went into Canberra Hospital with what seemed like a broken wrist. “In the x-ray, there was nothing wrong. Someone at Canberra Hospital was smart enough to look at his blood which wasn’t a normal thing for what we came in for”, said his dad, Justin. Justin remembers this day clearly. “It was 10 February when we received the news. It was the leukaemia that was hurting his bones.”

Luca had been diagnosed with a very rare combination of cancers, called Philadelphia Chromosome - positive Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia and chronic Myeloid Leukaemia. A combination that had not been seen before in Sydney Children’s Hospital.

“My mind was numb”. When he heard the news, dad’s mind went blank completely. He had just received the worst news a parent could hear, but he knew that it was up to him to get Luca through this. “When you hear that your son has got leukemia...it was rough and then I just went into protection mode.” The very next day of the diagnosis, they were flown to Sydney to start treatment right away.

For the first few weeks of Luca’s treatment, he and his family had to rent an apartment until a room at Ronald McDonald House in Randwick became available. Justin knew the charity well. “A mate of mine stayed here before when his son was here, but unfortunately didn’t make it”. Many have heard about RMH but, just like Luca’s family, it isn’t something you expect you’ll ever need, but you are glad it’s there.

“It saved our lives. You go through the hardest time in taking your kid through cancer. You don’t want to get pass that battle and then have to rebuild whatever you spent the last however many years building.” At RMHC Sydney, we provide a place where families can call ‘home’ while they are fighting the worst battles of their lives.

We want our parents to focus on what is important. “It would be extremely hard to navigate the stress of everything else in life with then having to worry about accommodation, food. Not having to worry about those aspects of being an adult allows you to focus on what you need to focus on”.

And that is what Justin has been able to do. For Luca, it has all been possible thanks to his dad, “[When he found out] it was rough but you just have to power through, and the only reason I am powering through is because of my dad”, Luca. That is what we always hope to accomplish, ensuring parents can be there for their kids, and give kids the chance to feel normal and have the strength to continue on. Luca has been no stranger to the activities run by the Sydney chapter. His favourite memory has been the coin toss. “Stuff like that makes me feel normal for those couple of hours that we get to do that stuff”.

For the last 18 months, Luca and his dad have been staying at RMH in Randwick, never giving up and doing what needs to be done in order to survive. “We are fighters”, says dad, “so we’ll win”. Although Luca’s body is not in the best place, he has gone through a bone marrow transplant which we are all hoping will give him the best chance to beat the cancer and share his brave and fighting story with others.

Luca and Justin’s story are one of many stories from the House. You can support families at the House by making a beautiful difference here.