Family humbled by support for Ben's cancer battle
IT'S hard for anyone to imagine the week that Vicky and Shane Baker and their family have endured.
But when word of her son's battle with a brain tumour emerged, the Grafton community have leapt to support them, something which Ms Baker said she is humbled by.
A week ago, keen sportsman Ben Baker Whalley complained of seeing two hockey balls while playing, and was annoyed by the lights at night football at Rushforth Park.
His friends also noticed a lethargy in his play, and his mother decided to get it checked out.
His optometrist ran a series of tests, and sent him straight to the emergency ward at Grafton Base Hospital, who sent him straight to Lady Cilento in Brisbane.
He was diagnosed with a brain tumour, and was immediately started on chemotherapy.
"I never expected it at all," Ms Baker said. "I thought maybe it might have been diabetes as they have similar symptoms.
"Our world has just been turned upside down."
Doctors have said that while the cancer is treatable, it will be a long road to recovery for Ben, who is expected to be away from home for at least six months.
"He'll have six rounds of chemo every three weeks, and then six rounds of radiation," Ms Baker said.
"Because of the chemo, he has no immune system, and he has to be kept in a clean environment. He's not even allowed to be around people who have a runny nose.
"If his temperature is 38°C, we have to get him to the hospital within half an hour to get the right antibiotic."
It is this fragility with his system that provides another challenge for Ms Baker and her family, in a struggle to find appropriate accommodation for her during the battle.
"At the moment we're in the childhood cancer house. My husband Shane is sleeping on a trundle and Ben and I have single beds, but there's no room," Ms Baker said.
"We've been put on a waiting list, but there are multiple people on that list.
"And there is no privacy there. With what we've been dealing with, sometimes you just need to be alone. Plus his clothes need to be washed in a special way, and we are moved around every few days, we just needed to get somewhere appropriate."
Ms Baker will sign a lease on nearby accommodation for the next six months, adding a financial strain to an already difficult situation.
"My husband will go back to work at Craftsman Homes, who have been wonderful, but I won't be able to work."
Back home, the outpouring of support for the family has been overwhelming, with floods of messages and calls coming to the family as soon as they heard the news.
"I've had people go to our house, friends bring food, offers of help from everywhere," she said.
"It is so humbling that Shane and I are absolutely gobsmacked.
"My friends have told me that I've always been the one that offers help and they are happy to give back. They understand that our life has been turned upside down - everyone has rallied around us."
A GoFundMe page has been started to assist the family with the costs of Ben's recovery, which not only include the accommodation costs, but out-of-pocket expenses like hospital parking and pharmacy, which has to be paid upfront before any rebates.
Already, within 12 hours of the page going live it has raised $2400, and already other fundraisers, including a Beanies for Ben day at Grafton Infants are being organised to assist the family.
As for Ben, Miss Baker said it had been a whirlwind experience for Ben, but photos from her Facebook show him sitting up in bed, thumbs up with a slightly unusual treat for breakfast.
"I've never let my kids have many sugary things, but apparently with the chemo it gives them headaches, and they recommend drinking Coke, so he's had Coke for breakfast," she said.
"He even asked for a Zooper Dooper, so I went through two wards trying to find one so he could have it as well.
While there is many months ahead of them on their journey, Ms Baker said they were truly grateful for all that had been done already.
"Everyone has been so kind. It's been a big learning experience... but I'm very appreciative and I'll be spreading the love in the future," she said.