Originally published in the Herald Sun, 26 March 2022
Words: Brigid O’Connell
Photo: Alex Coppel
It has taken daily watering and hard work, but the tiny seeds of positivity and hope that Aliyana Mimmo and her family have planted are blooming.
Almost a year after being diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, and about to finish the most intensive treatment, the 10-year-old hopes to start ticking things off her ever-growing “after cancer to-do list”.
Dinner at a restaurant, a trip to a water park and a weekend away with her mother D’Anna are first.
One thing the pair feel they have control over is their attitude each day.
“We feel what we need to feel, when we need to feel it,” Ms Mimmo said.
“She has every right to cry, scream and get angry – and we have those moments. Then I say tomorrow is a new day. We just make fun of everything and take every opportunity to have a joke, a laugh or a dance.”
While the rest of her family recovered from a virus last May, Aliyana’s cough persisted for weeks.
A trip to The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) emergency department revealed it was a result of cancer cells clumping together to block her airway.
“I couldn’t go in and look at her for an hour after the doctors told me, because she looked so well,” Ms Mimmo said.
“And yet they were telling me we’d be moved to Intensive Care Unit that day and we were starting chemo that afternoon.”
While her parents were upfront about her leukaemia diagnosis and what lay ahead with treatment, children this age can Google and it was Aliyana who told her parents that she had cancer.
“She’s non-stop with questions. She’s asked me: ‘Is what I have terminal? And what would have happened if you hadn’t taken me to the hospital that day?’”
After about 110 nights in hospital over the past year – many of them unexpected admissions for temperate spikes or low platelet counts – next week she finishes one of the extreme phases of treatment.
Then, after a two-month break, Aliyana will start the final 18 months of maintenance chemotherapy – a comparatively lower-dose course during which her hair will regrow and allow her to return to school.
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