Oamaru has its own advocate for a major national campaign.
Eight-year-old Bonnie Davidson is a 2018 regional ambassador for the Child Cancer Foundation. She will be championing the cause during today’s street appeal, inspiring everyone to give generously.
Since being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia on June 22, 2015, Bonnie has undergone seven months of intensive chemotherapy followed by a maintenance period to keep the leukaemia at bay. That entailed swallowing a total of 1680 pills.
She has had more than 900 doses of liquids and soluble medicines, 11 general anaesthetics for lumbar punctures and more than 120 blood extractions and intravenous accesses.
Bonnie had her final chemotherapy treatment in August last year. She has returned to school with a full head of hair and is braving a schedule of injections to re-immunise her against diseases.
Being selected as an ambassador was “pretty awesome”, her mother, Anna Maxwell, said.
“It’s been one heck of a journey for all of us. We’re very grateful to the community, especially Clearcut Building, which had a big fundraiser for us.”
Ms Maxwell and her husband, Hugh Davidson, were shocked when Bonnie’s illness was discovered. While Ms Maxwell went with her to Christchurch’s Children’s Haematology Oncology Centre by helicopter, Mr Davidson stayed behind with their elder daughter, Larnie.
He had to stop his job as a livestock agent and take up Ms Maxwell’s workload on their farm near Ngapara.
Mr Davidson said any time he felt sorry for himself, he just needed to look at what his wife and daughter were going through.
The family now lives in Oamaru. Larnie is learning to play the violin and Bonnie has started piano lessons.
Ms Maxwell said a lot of people have commented in the last fortnight on how well Bonnie looks. However, the injections are gruelling and she needed a week off school recently. She is also doing extra maths and reading at home to catch up with her learning.
No-one knows why leukaemia occurs.
“A white blood cell goes rogue.”
They were thankful Bonnie had a “basic strain”, Ms Maxwell said.
“It was only a matter of 12 hours in Christchurch and I knew how lucky we were. We had a blood cancer, but we saw children with scars on their bald heads and children who had to lose limbs.”
She attended funerals for some of Bonnie’s fellow patients.
Ms Maxwell said she now has a lot more empathy for others and no longer takes people at face value, realising that most people hide their suffering from the public.
She and her husband also appreciate the international medical resources available to New Zealanders, plus blood and organ donations.
“We’re really grateful to the Child Cancer Foundation. Their support for the family is amazing. When they first came and visited Bonnie and I, they gave her an overnight bag on wheels, a blanket and some goodies.
“They support the siblings, too.”
Mr Davidson was delighted his daughters could be “just typical kids”.
Bonnie has plans for her future.
“I want to live in the jungle so I can visit any animals and help them get better. I thought I wanted to be a vet. But then I thought no, I want to be a dolphin rearer.”
More than 1700 New Zealand children are diagnosed with cancer each year. The Child Cancer Foundation does not receive direct government funding, so it has to raise funds to support affected families.