For Emily and Ricky McGuire, life before Tommy’s diagnosis was idyllic. Long days were spent playing in the paddock behind their house, three hours south of Perth in rural WA. Helping walk the family dogs and learning to hit golf balls with his dad were regular activities for Tommy as a carefree little boy, with the family farm acting as a dream playground for the eldest of the two McGuire boys. For Emily, it was everything she could hope to give her son.
For 950 families each year in Australia, just like the McGuires, cancer can appear from nowhere for no apparent reason. Speaking of when Tommy was first diagnosed, Emily says:
“It was just by chance that we sort of caught it at all. Because he goes to daycare twice a week, he’d picked up some germs. First, he had a cold, and then he had another one, but he never really recovered colour-wise from the second one − he was quite pale. The doctors at the time thought it was just a virus.
“But then the next week, I don’t know why, but I must have just had a weird feeling that something wasn’t quite right. So, I went and asked for blood tests on that Monday, and we went and got them that same Monday. And at five o’clock in the afternoon, we got a call to go up to the emergency hospital in our town, because his haemoglobin levels were really, really low. They’d already called the haematologist at Perth Children’s Hospital, so when we arrived, they already knew why we’d come up.