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Childhood Cancer Support

Supporting Childhood Cancer Support

What would you do if your child was diagnosed with cancer? We talk to two families who have been through the unimaginable…

As parents, our biggest fear is that our children will become seriously ill. Sadly, for too many families this is a reality, and for those who live in regional & rural areas of Queensland, the added burden of having to relocate to Brisbane and find accommodation while their child has treatment can be overwhelming.

Imagine leaving your home, your partner and other children, your job, your friends and support network, not knowing where you are going to live, or how long you are going to be away for. Sometimes you’ve left home so quickly, so urgently, that all you have are the clothes you got on that flight in. This is the reality for many regional & rural families with sick children who require treatment in Brisbane.

Childhood Cancer Support is a not for profit organisation, based in Herston that has been providing medium to long term, oncology specific accommodation to families affected by childhood cancer since 1975. Currently, Childhood Cancer Support has 12 self-contained apartments in Herston, which welcomes all children & their families, with all cancer types, at no cost whatsoever. Childhood Cancer Support provides a home away from home for the whole family, a place where they can all be together, during a very challenging time.


Tracey Rethamel from Townsville, whose 8 year old daughter Lucy was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in February 2014 knows exactly what this feels like.

On the 13th February 2014, our youngest daughter Lucy was diagnosed with A.L.L (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia). Within 24 hours, we found ourselves in Brisbane, some 1,350kms away from home in Townsville (Northern QLD). Our world collapsed.

Our two eldest daughters remained in Townsville. At the time, we had no idea of what lay ahead for us, let alone where we were going to stay whilst in Brisbane. All that mattered at that desperate time was that we were by Lucy’s side. Thankfully, we had grandparents that were able to relocate to Townsville to care for our elder daughters.

We will be forever grateful when in the following days we were made aware of the support services that Childhood Cancer Support provided families like ours. We were fortunate enough to be offered a unit within weeks.

Our two bedroom unit (TDH4) soon became our 2nd home over the course of the next 9 months. We decorated it with Lucy’s artwork, filled it with special family photos and grew in love with everything about it. It became our sanctuary; our safe haven when Lucy’s neutrophils were low and where we could escape the turmoil of chemotherapy.

Chloe and Sophie (Lucy’s much loved elder sisters) visited us often during school term and stayed each holiday. The holiday programs offered by Childhood Cancer Support were a welcome distraction for them and provided hours of entertainment.

Childhood Cancer Support became much more than an accommodation provider – lifelong friendships were formed with other residents and the staff. We miss these friends now that we are home. We became part of the Childhood Cancer Support family and regularly took part in the many extra services that they offer – taking time out to book in for a massage, attending the monthly BBQ’s and the weekly Coffee, Cake & Chat on Wednesdays were an opportunity to meet others in the same boat as us.

We will miss the afternoons when all you could hear were the giggles from the kids playing in the playground, the impromptu chats with other parents – who we realised were a great comfort to us in times of need and a support that we appreciated. Lucy will miss her “day job” in the office. She became “Chief Shredder” and Gina welcomed her each day and genuinely took the time to make her feel special.

Cancer sucks, without a doubt. But when it is your child suffering, it is the most insidious disease there is. We will be forever grateful to Childhood Cancer Support for providing our family with a home for our stay in Brisbane.


Tamsyn Keily, left her home in Yeppoon in February 2014 when her 6 year old son, Anthony, was diagnosed with Leukaemia.

At the end of February 2014, our family life was turned upside down when our youngest was diagnosed with leukaemia. We were told he needed to be in Brisbane – 700 kms away from home, our friends and support network. Our family was forced to live two separate lives, my husband having to stay in Yeppoon to work, keep our home running and look after our daughter Emily, who was in Year 4 at the time, while I relocated to Brisbane with Anthony. Emily has been able to spend school holidays with us here in Brisbane and my husband visits as often as he can.

During one of the hardest times we have had to face as a family, Childhood Cancer Support has not only provided us with accommodation for our entire stay in Brisbane, but also valuable support. What they have created here is a community unlike any other for all oncology families, providing practical support like shopping, hospital or airport runs, and also offering emotional and mental support through regular Coffee, Cake & Chat, recreational programs and activities for the kids, gym facilities and more. Childhood Cancer Support not only became our home away from home, but also became our second family and the place where we have grown, learnt and bonded through this journey and gained new friendships that will last a lifetime.

Childhood Cancer Support celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2015 and plans to mark this with the purchase of a new accommodation facility closer to the new Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital. Childhood Cancer Support relies on donations and fund-raising to deliver the accommodation and subsequent support services to families just like Tracey & Tamsyn’s.

To find out how you can support Childhood Cancer Support, visit their website www.ccs.org.au

This article was published in Issue 9 of our print magazine, April/May 2015.

Photo of author

Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

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