Harley’s lymphoma tumour shock
A week before Christmas, Harley Royce was admitted to hospital after a wayward jump from his daughter caused his appendix to burst.
A routine biopsy then revealed Harley had Burkitt’s lymphoma, an aggressive and fast-growing form of lymphoma that presents as a rapidly enlarging tumour.
“During the month between getting my appendix removed and my first PET scan, the tumour had grown from nothing to the size of a softball,” explains Harley.
“There were no warning signs, I only started getting symptoms at the end of January with really bad pains in my abdomen and terrible back aches from the tumour pushing on my spine.”
The diagnosis was a big shock to the whole family who live in country town Geraldton, a five-hour drive north of Perth, where Harley needed to receive life-saving treatment.
“I just burst into tears and a million questions ran through my mind,” remembers Harley’s wife, Jess.
With three young children, 7-year-old Adelaide, William, 5, and 1-year-old Belle, having to uproot the entire family to Perth seemed daunting – but necessary considering treatment could take up to six months.
“My first thought was that Harley would not be going through that gruelling treatment by himself. We all needed to be there to support him. My second thought was how the kids would cope with the changes from the chemo; I just think it would’ve scared them to only see him every three weeks, it would be too big a shock,” says Jess.
Thanks to its supporters, the Leukaemia Foundation’s brand new Stirling Cross Apartments had just opened, with Harley and his family among the first occupants. “I just couldn’t believe these apartments existed. I kept asking the staff ‘you’re definitely not going to tell me it’s time to go after four weeks’ and they just said ‘this is your home for as long as you need it’,” Jess explains.
“The Leukaemia Foundation team made it as easy as possible: Kelly came around every two weeks to see how we were doing and I could message her whenever I wanted.
“I basically spent those first two weeks in tears, overwhelmed by the kindness and support we were shown by basic strangers. I just want to thank everyone who supports the Leukaemia Foundation; what you did for our family is unbelievable.”
After six months and six rounds of gruelling chemotherapy for Harley, the family was able to return home to Geraldton. Harley is confident the treatment has worked its magic and is feeling stronger every day.
“Because of the nature of Burkitt’s the cancer cells don’t just lay dormant in the system, they will present pretty rapidly and if it had come back I would be feeling it by now,” says Harley. “We’re just waiting for my final PET scan in October, which will give me the all clear.”
Since returning home the family is keen to support others who find themselves in a similar situation.
“When we first got back, our friends kept asking to fundraise for us but we both said ‘we are happy for you to fundraise but please do it for the charities who helped us, like the Leukaemia Foundation’,” says Jess.
“We wouldn’t have got through the last six months without other people’s donations to the Leukaemia Foundation, we wouldn’t have had access to those incredible services, and we wouldn’t have had a home – I can never thank you enough!”