How you’re helping kids with cancer overcome loneliness


When Ellalee’s daughter, Maia, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia aged just six, she prepared as best she could for the difficult journey ahead. But one thing she wasn’t prepared for was the isolation Maia would have to deal with during her treatment. Here, Ellalee opens up about the loneliness Maia has faced during her cancer journey, and how the kindness of people like you has given her daughter a reason to smile during the hardest time of her life.

Just days after her sixth birthday in March 2023, Maia’s irregular sneezing turned out to be much more than the allergies the doctors had first suspected. Within hours of her first blood tests, Maia and her mum, Ellalee, were in Perth, hundreds of miles from home to commence cancer treatment.

Speaking from her daughter’s hospital room in Perth, Ellalee says:

“I moved up with Maia to Perth, and she spent the first kind of six weeks in hospital getting treatment, and just getting used to what her life was going to be for quite a while. I just watched her go from an energetic, happy six-year-old kid, to just a shell that just wants to sleep all day… all of it is really, really tough.”

As Maia’s treatment progressed, it became apparent to Ellalee that the social isolation for her young and usually playful daughter was nearly as big of a challenge as the treatment itself. She says:

“You know it’s going to be hard, but one thing I never expected was how lonely her treatment would be for her.”

Because of the intensity of cancer treatments on her little body weakening her immune system, it hasn’t been safe for her to see her friends or go anywhere there are other kids. In reality, her treatments have also made her too weak to do anything or even get out of bed for much of her time in hospital.

Maia’s cancer treatment

“I’ve found that being in hospital for quite an extended time really suffocates her. And it becomes their life. So even out of hospital, I find she talks about her treatment, she talks about her port, she talks about just hospital and medicine and stuff − because that’s her life for now. And it’s quite sad, you need the small things to keep them a kid and keep them distracted from that."

Just as Maia’s treatment was becoming more intense and after months out of school, away from her friends and family, a new furry friend arrived from a kind person like you. Ellalee continues:

“At that point, she was in ICU with an infection, she hadn’t seen her friends in months. She couldn’t get out of bed − she couldn’t even go to the toilet. She was really, really sick. And that’s when she got her first bear, it was genuinely the only thing that put a smile on her face at that awful time of her treatment.

“From that moment, her little bear buddy was her world. She was still bed-bound, but she’d send me around the hospital before every procedure to find some others from the play areas to protect her before her next procedure.”

For the next months as Maia’s chemotherapy continued, sharing the joy that her bear had given her was a top priority. Her new neighbour in hospital, another girl around Maia’s age facing her own cancer battle, was looking for a Deedee Dinosaur bear to keep her company – the very one that Maia had. Ellalee says:

One of my proudest moments was when Maia was well enough to leave her room, she gave her favourite bear – Dino – away to one of her little friends in the next room over who was desperate for the cuddly dinosaur one. Maia now has the little unicorn instead, but she wanted to make sure all the other kids had the bear they wanted. It made both of them so happy and filled my heart that they were looking out for each other.

Maia’s Easter unicorn bear

As a six-year-old, Maia’s entire life revolved around school, her friends, her love for basketball and just being a kid. The loneliness that she has experienced during her cancer journey is not unique to her and is something that sadly affects the three Aussie kids who are diagnosed with cancer every day. But, thanks to the kindness of people like you, kids like Maia are able to have a distraction, a friend and a protector throughout the scariest and loneliest time of their lives. Ellalee says:

“Cancer really takes everything from kids − their whole life becomes treatments, hospital and the opposite of what childhood should be. Anything that can give them some company, some happiness, a glimmer of joy during that time, however long it turns out to be, is worth its weight in gold.

To people like you, who gift bears to kids like Maia, I just want to let you know the impact that the bears have on sick children, and how much joy, comfort and happiness they bring to kids who are in the hospital and have nobody. The bears are their friends − they become their friends and their protectors.

Maia’s cancer treatment

Thank you for giving kids like Maia such a powerful gift. Click the button below to donate a bear to another child like Maia in hospital.

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