Hayley Lahz had to confront the fact that saving her son from cancer meant risking his health.
As Kidspot reports, Hayley’s son, Lachlan, had always been an active boy who loved sports. The 10-year-old from Queensland was an avid Australian rules football player and runner, so when he started complaining of pain in his knee, doctors thought he must have injured it playing sports. They recommended some exercises to strengthen the joint, which seemed to work.
That is, until the day that Lachlan collapsed after running a sprint. He later described it as “waves of pain” coming from inside his bones.
Seeing her son in tears of pain worried Hayley, who rushed him to the hospital. She told Kidspot:
“He’s a tough kid, so I knew something was wrong, and I started to panic.”
At the hospital, some of the staff suggested Lachlan was playing up his injury, but Hayley knew in her heart that something was very wrong. That feeling was confirmed when scans revealed lesions in Lachlan’s leg.
Deep down, Hayley realized her son probably had cancer, but she was still unprepared for the diagnosis.
The next day, an MRI scan revealed that Lachlan never had a twisted knee. In fact, his collapse a few days earlier was caused by part of the bone crumbling because tumors had eaten away at his tibia.
Doctors diagnosed Lachlan with Ewing sarcoma, an extremely rare cancer that grows in bone or soft tissue. According to the National Cancer Institute, Ewing sarcoma tends to affect adolescents and young adults. Symptoms include swelling, fever, and a bone that breaks for no reason. Treatment and prognosis depend greatly on how much the cancer cells have spread.
Hayley told Kidspot that she “lost it” when she learned her son had cancer:
“I felt the whole world collapsing around me. It was gut-wrenching. I was in shock, I was a mess. I just couldn’t stop crying or shaking, thinking my strong, beautiful boy was going to die.”
Lachlan’s parents tried to protect their son from knowing how bad the diagnosis was. They told him he needed medicine for his sick leg and that the medicine would make him feel bad but would heal the leg. His response surprised his mother.
“He had a little cry, and then pulled himself together and said: ‘Okay, I can do this, I can beat this,’” she told Kidspot. “For the most part from that point, he was the strongest of us all.”
Lachlan began chemotherapy, which was painful for him and excruciating for his mother. While Lachlan battled with the pain of the treatment, his mother was concerned with the effects of chemotherapy. Especially frightening was the knowledge that one of her son’s chemo drugs could cause him to develop leukemia. She told Kidspot:
“Knowing you have to poison your child to save their life goes against everything you feel is right — but you have to do it.”
For months, Lachlan endured excruciating pain and countless side effects from his cancer treatments. He missed school, events with friends, and spent most of his time alone in a wheelchair.
“He’d wake up in the middle of the night, crying and then raging, and crying. It was really emotionally tough because of all the drugs he was on,” Hayley recalled.
The worst moment was when Lachlan learned he’d never be able to play football again. The young boy had asked when he’d be well enough to get back to the football field and was told that he’d be fortunate to be able to walk or run again. Sports, however, were out of the question. Hayley told Kidspot:
“He just broke down. He was so emotional, because footy was his passion. It really hit him hard. He’d been playing since he was six, and his dad used to coach the footy team, so it was a big part of our world, and it was just ripped away from him.”
Lachlan spent 10 months in treatment and another year in a wheelchair due to a fall and fracture. Now 13, Lachlan has been cancer-free for nearly a year. But this doesn’t mean his health problems are at an end.
Hayley explained to Kidspot that they have to be constantly vigilant for a recurrence of cancer:
“When he has any pain or bruising, I panic, because I think it could be cancer again. It’s exhausting.”
She added that “once treatment is over, things don’t just go back to normal. Life will never be normal — we will always live in fear.”
What’s more, Lachlan will need more surgeries before he can be fitted for a prosthetic leg. His family has created a GoFundMe page to help with medical expenses.
Lachlan has continued to improve. In a recent post on a Facebook page dedicated to his cancer journey, Hayley wrote that scans have shown no damage to his heart and no return of his cancer. He is also able to walk unaided and plans to help his uncle coach his old football team next season.
Hayley hopes her family’s story will help raise awareness of childhood cancer. She also wants to see more funding for research into less harmful cancer drugs. As she told Kidspot:
“Cancer doesn’t discriminate. It can happen to anyone. Don’t let doctors dismiss your symptoms — sometimes kids get diagnosed too late, and they don’t survive: so trust your gut.”