Originally published in the Herald Sun, 8 March 2021
Words: Brigid O’Connell
Photo: David Caird
Luna Phillips watched the older girl opposite her in day oncology with concern.
She is only four, but Luna knew this girl was anxious, so she held out her hand and hung on tight so her new friend wouldn’t be scared.
Next, she saw a boy crying on the same ward. She asked her mum if she could make him a card so he would feel better.
“As a parent you think, ‘Luna, you’re going through so much yourself’, but she’s always looking for a way to make other people feel better,” said mum Laura.
“We always knew she was a special little soul, but we’re seeing it a lot now. We’re getting our strength from her.”
The Wangaratta girl, who turned four on Friday, is new to cancer treatment — three months into what will be a three-year process — but she is still showing her trademark compassion in her new home away from home at The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH).
Her leukaemia diagnosis came with little warning.
One day in late November Luna complained of a sore neck. The next day it was a sore back and some unsteadiness on her feet.
The one after that, following a late-night trip to their local hospital, tests revealed the dreaded C-word.
Luna, Laura and dad Marc were sent straight to Melbourne.
There was not even time to pack a bag.
Luna’s two-year-old brother Levi was left in the care of grandparents. Their dog was left with other relatives.
It would be another month before they were reunited again as a family of four at their new home in Melbourne, where they will stay for Luna’s most intense phase of chemotherapy.
“We’ve told her your blood is a bit sick, and that’s why we’re here, to get your blood better and that’s enough for her at the moment,” her mother said.
A cancer diagnosis means parents hand much of the control and trust to the medical experts.
But there was still one big thing Laura could do for her daughter — turn her own navel-length hair into a buzz cut at the same time Luna was due to lose hers.
“We’re getting through this together, as a family, and I’m really quite positive that Luna will do well,” she said.
“We’re in the best place and getting the treatment she needs to get through this.
“It’s going to be just a story we can tell her one day, about something that she went through when she was very young.”