Life was great for the Isedale family. Mackenzie was just like any other nine-year-old girl. They were always going away on little holidays down in Nowra, fishing, swimming and laughing.
When Mackenzie's family were on their annual fishing trip, Mackenzie wasn’t feeling great. She had been complaining of headaches, dizzy spells and general tiredness, while dad Craig had also noticed some bruising on her legs. Mum Errin took Mackenzie to the optometrist to have her eyes checked.
“I thought her eyesight was the answer, along with the fact that she was due for a well-deserved two weeks off school holidays.”
On the first day of School Holiday, Mackenzie’s older sister phoned Errin saying that Mackenzie was feeling dizzy and her lips were white. Errin left work straight away and took Mackenzie straight to the GP for blood tests.
“Our GP sent Mackenzie straight to the Emergency department where x-rays would determine if we could take her to the Sydney Children’s Hospital in Randwick by car or by helicopter flight,” said Errin.
Numb, scared and wanting to wake up from this horrible nightmare, Errin had to stay strong for Mackenzie as she didn’t fully understand what was happening to her. Mackenzie’s doctor took Errin and Craig into an office and told them Mackenzie had been diagnosed with acute lympoblastic leukaemia. Errin explains the devastation they felt.
“All I wanted to do was cry but I tried to be strong for Mackenzie.”
Mackenzie went straight to theatre to have her port inserted. The following Sunday the family was allowed home for a couple of days to regroup as they would spend the next 3-4 months in Sydney at Ronald McDonald House.
During their time at home, Mackenzie had her hair cut and coloured purple. On Tuesday night they packed the car and headed to Ronald McDonald House to begin the chemotherapy on the following Wednesday.
“We made a pact as a family that we would not let anything get in the way of ‘us’ and we would pull together as one,” said Errin.
Treatment was very toxic to Mackenzie’s little body. During the first protocol she was constantly spiking temperatures which meant she was admitted to hospital for a minimum of 48 hours. These 48 hours often quickly turned into a week-long stay. Errin explains the dramatic effect of the treatment.
“At one stage, Mackenzie was put into a wheelchair as one of the drugs affected her nerves and joints so she couldn’t walk. It was really hard for her family to see her like this as she was always a very active young girl.”
Mackenzie’s treatment consisted of 9 months of intense chemotherapy and then 18 months of ‘maintenance' treatment. On 11 April 2018 Mackenzie completed her final chemo treatment.
The diagnosis took a real toll on the family. Whenever someone was sick, they had to stay away so that they didn’t give their illness to Mackenzie. Although they stayed together as a family, one of them would be in Sydney for a week with Mackenzie whilst the other would stay home to look after Mackenzie's sister.
“Their laughter will make your heart melt. Their strength will make a grown person cry. If you ever see a child fight cancer, it will change your life forever,” says Errin.
Mackenzie is now 12 and has just started high school. She is currently in remission. She is a resilient, strong young lady, and as Errin says, “we are so very proud of her.”
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