Eli’s constant furry friends

With experts baffled by Eli's incredibly rare tumour, some furry friends have brightened his difficult journey.
With experts baffled by Eli's incredibly rare tumour, some furry friends have brightened his difficult journey.
With experts baffled by Eli's incredibly rare tumour, some furry friends have brightened his difficult journey.

When parents Rob and Natalie noticed their usually energetic five-year-old consistently favouring one leg, worry crept over them. Physiotherapy failed to fix the problem and when Eli was rushed for tests, MRIs showed a tumour in the little boy’s pelvis that was impossible to surgically remove.

In a cruel waiting game, over two years later Eli’s family still don’t have a name for the incredibly rare tumour that the normally plucky primary schooler is suffering from. Medical professionals in Australia and the US have been left stumped by his unique case.

Experts have identified several rare cancers that share similarities with Eli’s tumour, leading doctors to resort to a potent combination of chemotherapy and an experimental clinical trial to try and combat his disease.

"So far, he's had two full cycles of chemo,” Rob explains.

Eli’s tough treatment schedule also includes regular hospital trips for blood tests and daily medication at home.

“His chemotherapy has been reduced from weekly to monthly due to side effects,” says Rob. 

“The recovery time after each treatment was quite a shock," says Natalie. "We didn’t realise the extent of the aftercare."

With him every step of the way

“Going to hospital makes Eli very anxious,” Rob says. “So, The Kids’ Cancer Project bears are a great distraction. Eli was hugely excited to receive one!”

Eli’s difficult journey was brightened when, after his first extensive biopsy, he received Sammy Superhero Bear, or ‘Super Ted’ as Eli calls him, gifted by a generous donor.

“They’re so special to him,” says Natalie, who describes the bears a security blanket and constant source of comfort.

“He received his first teddy after one of his biggest operations, so it was really good timing as he was feeling so sad. He’d just come back from recovery and the bear was on his bed.”

Best buddies

Eli, weak from his surgery, wasn’t properly introduced to his new friend until the next day. When he met ‘Super Ted’, he was thrilled and remembers thinking the bear had “magically appeared”.  

The teddies also bring a huge sense of comfort to Natalie and Rob, who take reassurance knowing The Kids’ Cancer Project bears can be with their young son when they can’t.

“As parents, we can’t go in when he has an MRI or surgery, but the bears can,” Rob says. “They’ve been with him through everything and are always there when he wakes up.”

Read more: 4 ways a teddy bear brings comfort

Eli's bear backpack

Even as Eli gets older, his bears continue to be a vital part of his support crew. Now he's also the proud owner of Orlando Pirate and Christmas Bear, who join the entourage he takes to every hospital visit.

“Every time he goes to hospital, he packs a backpack with more teddies than clothes,” Rob laughs. “He’s eight years old and he still loves them.”

Outside of hospital, the bears remain constant companions, sleeping on the end of his bed every night. The teddies have even become a hit in the classroom. Despite his struggles, Eli is still determined to be like other kids and go to school, although he often has to come early due to pain caused by his tumour and treatment.

“They think he’s pretty cool,” Eli says of his classmates’ reactions to ‘Super Ted’.

A big thank you

Rob says that entering the world of kids’ cancer has been eye-opening and difficult. But he reflects fondly on the impact he’s seen The Kids’ Cancer Project bears having in hospital.

“You look around the ward and can see they mean a lot to kids and make such a huge difference.”

Natalie is quick to say just how thankful she is to donors of The Kids’ Cancer Project bears.

“For me as a parent it was lovely to know that someone was thinking of him,” she says. “Eli’s Grandparents have seen what the bears did for him and now donate bears to hospitals every Christmas.”

And what would Eli like to say to generous donors of The Kids’ Cancer Project teddies?

"A big thank you for the bears!" - Eli