Providing a home full of heart
The Nield family were overwhelmed by the kind and thoughtful care provided by the Leukaemia Foundation while seven-year-old son, Rocco, battled Hodgkin lymphoma (HL).
A farming and fishing fanatic, Rocco’s life on the Nield’s family farm was a-buzz with the best days spent out on the header reaping wheat with Dad. Always full of energy and never showing any signs of being unwell, the family were rocked by Rocco’s first HL diagnosis three years ago.
Our son Rocco’s 6th birthday we will never forget. My husband Joel and I sat stunned watching him in his hospital bed. Just the day before they put a port under his skin so they could easily administer the chemotherapy drugs; he was still sore from this. ‘Chemotherapy for your 6th birthday’ I thought to myself. The hospital staff came into his room and sang him ‘Happy Birthday’. It all seemed so surreal. I knew this was a day we would always reflect on.
–Emma Nield, mum of lymphoma-survivor Rocco
“At football one weekend a friend pointed out Rocco’s chin looked slightly bigger on one side,” explains Emma, Rocco’s mum. “This lump on his throat started growing rapidly and Rocco was diagnosed with HL in the following weeks.
The growth was able to be removed completely and life went on for the family with Rocco being closely monitored.Devastatingly, late last year the cancer returned and the family had to leave their home so Rocco could receive life-saving treatment in a capital city.
“We were told we would need to be in Adelaide, six hours drive from our home, for four months while Rocco had chemotherapy.”
Emma wasn’t having much luck finding a suitable place to stay when she came across the Leukaemia Foundation online, offering accommodation for families going through a blood cancer diagnosis.
They were provided with a three-bedroom unit at the Bridgestone Australia Leukaemia Foundation Village, perfect for the family, with younger sisters, Capri, 5, and Maisie, 2 in tow.
“We were provided with such a beautiful unit just a short 10-minute drive from the hospital, making life so much easier,” said Emma.
“The village is gated so we felt safe and my parents could also stay to help look after the girls while Rocco, my husband Joel and I went back and forth to the hospital.
“I was breastfeeding our baby and really needed my girls to be with us, it would’ve been so horrible for all of us to be separated during that time.”
One of Emma’s main concerns was keeping the kids occupied while staying at the village as they were used to having the run of the farm.
“But the village had a lovely playground, a playroom, library and gym to keep our young kids entertained,” said Emma.
“We were also able to use their office space for tutoring for Rocco and the staff often integrated us into office activities.
“We had Halloween with the staff and helped them decorate their Christmas tree – they were just so wonderful throughout our entire stay and made us feel at home.”
The family also appreciated the village staff’s understanding of Rocco’s change in behaviour due to aggressive treatment.
“Steroid treatment, many anaesthetics and chemotherapy sometimes changed our happy boy into aggressive and violent,” explains Emma.
“The staff never made us feel bad about this, they gave us all the time we needed in the village and supported us whenever they could.
“We also loved meeting the other families in the village who were a great source of comfort, support and friendship in what would’ve been an otherwise isolating time.”
The Nields were able to return home just before Christmas with the family recently receiving the news that Rocco is cancer-free and in remission.
“Rocco is doing really well now, free of his cancer and back at school,” said Emma. “He will continue to have checkups every three months in Adelaide.”
“The Leukaemia Foundation has also provided information about lymphoma including a book for children that we were able to share with Rocco’s school to understand what he’s been through.
“We will be forever grateful for the amazing support and real friendship we were shown in the village – we couldn’t have made it through without it.”