A play date in the park turned into a nightmare when Dulcie Clarke was just three years old.
The beginning of 2016 was blissfully routine in Croydon, Victoria the for the Clarke family.
Five-year-old Mannus had started school while three-year-old Dulcie’s days revolved around her friends at daycare, cooking with her daddy Andy, along with playing outside with the cats and chooks as mum Nami watched on.
Dulcie with one of her chooks just weeks before her Wilms tumour diagnosis.
Like any little one, Dulcie had short bouts of gastro; vomiting, followed by headaches that were apparently related to dehydration and extreme tiredness.
“The reality is, kids are always picking up bugs,” said Nami. “But I started to worry when she regularly got sick on the 5km drive to and from kindy. As soon as she was out of the car, she’d vomit. It was so bad we actually bought sick-bags to keep handy.”
“Of course, whenever we took her to the GP, she would be fine,” Nami said. “So we kept scratching our heads, filling out food diaries and checking with other parents to see if their kids were sick.”
It was an innocent play date in April that brought the situation to a head and turned the Clarke’s world inside out.
“Dulcie fell over in the park and said she had a sore tummy. Her skin wasn’t grazed, so I dusted her off and she went back to play,” said Nami.
“A little later she came back and said she felt sick. Now I could see a lump coming out of the right hand side of her ribcage. It was too soft to be bone, so I knew it wasn’t a break. But it was too firm to be a swelling. We went to the local hospital to get it checked out.”
After hours of tests, a doctor told Nami to get her daughter to The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne immediately. The problem was Dulcie’s right kidney. It didn’t look right.
hospital was on alert, ready and waiting for the little patient’s arrival. From the time she was admitted through to the late evening, Dulcie underwent myriad tests. It was a process that drained both mum and daughter physically and emotionally.
“It was midnight,” said Nami. “I was introduced to an oncology specialist who told me what was happening. My little girl had a stage 2 Wilms tumour in her right kidney.”
“Immediately I felt our little world had imploded. I felt panic. It was a freight train moment inside my head. It felt really noisy, like I was in my own little storm.”
Thankfully for the family, a treatment program was quickly established. Dulcie started chemotherapy within four days of arrival in emergency, and later the tumour was removed in surgery. The intensive, and at times incredibly traumatic, eight-month medical intervention saved her life.
Read more: The moments that stick
Dulcie had to celebrate her fourth birthday in hospital while recieving life-saving treatment. She's pictured here with mum, Nami.
“Dulcie is extroverted and loves an audience for her ballet concerts and songs she makes up. The experience didn’t knocked that pluck out of her,” said Nami.
With Dulcie’s strength returning, the family have been able to enjoy some much anticipated adventures. An action packed off road adventure at the end of 2017 was followed by a busy trip to Japan in May 2018.
The Clarke family enjoy a holiday in Japan, even visiting Tokyo Disneyland. L-R Andy, Manus, Dulcie and Nami.
But it’s the simple things in life that are now giving Nami and Andy so much joy.
“Taking the kids to swimming used to feel like a chore,” said Nami. “So much to pack and carry, mixed with the drama of trying to get there on time and the battle in the change-room at the end. Now I feel lucky I can take Dulcie and Mannus to swimming lessons.”
Dulcie’s artwork appears on YPURA Natural Spring Water. Proceeds of sales go toward funding childhood cancer research in Australia.
Donate to research and help find more effective treatments for kids with cancer.