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Lachlan Smiling

Lachie Stevenson, 19

Jeez, Mum, we could swim out of here in your tears.”

Lach’s symptoms

Lach had been unwell for four days, feeling nauseous and vomiting randomly. By Friday, he felt that he was unable to go to work. He phoned the doctor and was able to get one of the three appointments left for the day. The doctor diagnosed vertigo and gave medication accordingly, however also sent him for an MRI on Tuesday – just to rule out any nasties. He deteriorated over the weekend and by the time Tuesday came around, he was struggling with his balance and wouldn’t go anywhere without a bucket.

The hospital

We went to South West Healthcare in Warrnambool for his MRI. It took time as Lach was also struggling to lay flat. By the time it was complete, he was sent to emergency for a jab in the belly to stop the vomiting and to keep us in the system as they had found something nasty in his MRI.

Lach went through triage in Emergency and was given a bed and jab instantly. I, however, sat in the waiting room for two hours due to COVID. Once I got in, Lach looked a million bucks. He was settled, not nauseous and had been able to have a good snooze.

Lots of doctors and nurses came to see us, so I knew something wasn’t right. My heart was sinking. I was struggling to hold myself together, whilst Lach just took everything in his stride. Not much phased him, he was the most amazing kid. I remember a lady by the name of Stephanie who came to see us. I’m not even sure what title she held, but she started with ‘You probably know that something’s not right…’

The lesion

I remember being told that the lesion was 2.4cm in size and that it was on the cerebellum, however at that point I knew nothing about the brain! She then proceeded to say that it was ‘most likely cancer’ and that ‘it was probably going to take over our lives.’

I remember thinking, “What? Surely they can remove it? Modern medicine is pretty amazing and it’s only 2.4cm!”. It became real when Lach looked at me with horror and asked “Is that cancer?”. I convinced him to take one step at a time, it could be anything.

I went into shock, trying to be strong for Lach. He shouldn’t have had to be strong for me. Everything was surreal. There was a lot of noise and people fussing. I just didn’t believe what they were saying. This was never meant to happen to us. We were being transferred to Melbourne… it must be serious… they were talking about the air ambulance… But Lach was going to have nothing but the best.

The formal diagnosis

Lach had surgery six weeks later, which was frustrating waiting for test results and watching him deteriorate. By the time he had surgery, it had become an emergency. It wasn’t until after surgery when they did a biopsy that we received the actual diagnosis at the Royal Children’s Hospital, a diffuse midline glioma, the worst possible diagnosis that we could receive.

I was in shock, but I kicked into overdrive and asked question after question. Jas [Lachie’s dad] was dumbfounded. We were told that Lach would have radiation but that would only keep the tumour at bay for a period of time. It would most likely come back, and in a more aggressive state. At that point, Lach should just enjoy life, go to parties. But Lach never quite got back to that point.

The aftermath

We walked out in a daze. Everything was blurry. I was shaking, yet trying to push Lach in the wheelchair. He couldn’t see me: I was trying to stay strong, but the tears were sneaking out my eyes, down my cheeks. My world had just been torn apart.

True to form, Lach looked at me as we sat down and said, “Jeez, we could swim out of here in your tears Mum!”.

Lachie Stevenson’s diagnosis has been generously donated by his mum, Amy Stevenson.