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Real Life

REAL LIFE: Meet the brave boy who saved his little brother's life after a devastating cancer diagnosis

''If I wasn't here, he might not be here either.''

By Mitchell Jordan

Louise Stevens, 43, from Perth, WA, shares her family's story with Take 5's Mitchell Jordan:

Candles were burning bright, exciting my two-year-old son, Jack, who leant forward to blow them out.
"Happy birthday to you!" we sang.
Jack's third birthday was still a few months away but ever since his dad Gary's big day earlier that year, my son hadn't stop talking about celebrating his own.
"I want a PAW Patrol cake," he told us. "And jelly cups!"
His older brothers Oliver, six, and Josh, 10, were happy to sing along with him as we wore little parties hats.
But, over time, I grew concerned Jack wasn't well.
He was lethargic and congested, though doctors weren't too concerned.
"It's likely a virus he's picked up from daycare," one told me.
Louise's three boys, Oliver, Jack and Joshua. (Photo by Clair Negri)
We'd been to six doctors to make sure, but none gave me any reassurance.
My lively boy was now a shadow of his former self – something just wasn't right.
One day I was at work and confided to a colleague about my fears.
She encouraged me not to ignore my feelings, so when I returned home later, I packed a bag and prepared to take Jack to hospital.
"Where are you going?" Gary asked me in confusion.
He'd already taken Jack to a doctor earlier that day for stomach problems.
Call it mother's intuition but I wasn't convinced my boy was okay.
At the hospital, my suspicions were confirmed.
Jack in hospital. (Image: supplied)
"It's not his stomach," the doctor said. "Jack's liver and spleen are massively enlarged."
He ran tests, thinking it might be a viral infection.
Jack and I waited in hospital for the results and were later joined by Gary, who'd left our sons with the neighbours.
As a doctor walked in to speak with Gary and me in private, my knees almost went and I had to sit down immediately.
Yet again, I just couldn't shake the feeling bad news was coming.
"Jack has leukaemia," the doctor said.
I began to cry.
I'd known there was something wrong with my son, but I'd never expected to hear he had cancer.
Louise and Jack (Image: supplied)
Doctors couldn't tell us much more and Jack and I were transferred to a nearby children's hospital for further examination.
"We're going to look at what's in your tummy," I told Jack, holding his hand.
Gary went home to collect the boys.
I stayed with Jack throughout his tests.
After a long wait, it was confirmed. He had juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML) – a very rare form of cancer that was genetic but not hereditary.
"What does it mean?" I asked in shock.
"The odds are stacked against him," a doctor said solemnly, not wanting to say much more.
Jack and I had to enter isolation where he went downhill rapidly, needing an oxygen machine.
Looking at my once-bright child broke my heart – he was now connected to so many tubes that I couldn't even cuddle him.
Jack was so brave (Image: supplied)
Gary and I took it in turns to stay with him, but the boys were devastated they couldn't come in and see their little brother.
"Your birthday's coming up," I told Jack each day, remembering the times we had sung him happy birthday before.
Had there been a reason for this? I thought, wondering if he might not make it to his third birthday in two weeks' time.
All the plans we'd made had been thrown to the wayside. I had to order him a PAW Patrol cake instead of making one and spent the night before blowing up as many balloons as I could.
But the hospital agreed to let Oliver and Josh come in to see Jack briefly for the celebration and their presence excited him enough to even sit up a little.
In the 17 days that had passed since they'd last seen him, Jack had grown so skinny and feeble that witnessing him in such a state shocked them both.
But we put on happy faces, showering him with gifts.
Jack had his birthday in hospital. (Image: supplied)
He later had chemo to shrink the cancer in his liver, though this wasn't a solution to his sickness.
"Jack's only option is a stem cell transplant," a doctor told us.
"We're searching the worldwide register for matches, but a sibling might be the best chance we have."
I explained the situation to the boys.
"He can have my head if he needs it!" Josh cried.
Oliver wasn't as enthusiastic as his older brother, but it was a huge relief when Oliver was confirmed as a match.
"You're doing a brave thing," I told him as he went into hospital for the procedure.
Doctors were cautious about saying Oliver might save Jack's life in case it didn't work as planned.
But seven months after our ordeal started, we received the best news of all – Jack's cancer had gone into remission!
Good news came at last! (Image by Clair Negri)
He'll still need to be monitored closely over the coming years but now we can give him the birthday he deserves.
After hearing our story, Mitchell from Take 5 got in contact and granted us the $5000 I requested in the Wishing Well competition.
Money has been so tight in our house since I had to quit work to look after Jack, and Gary wasn't able to work full-time, either.
We both wanted to give him and Oliver something special for their bravery.
Oliver, now seven, really did save his little brother and they're now closer than ever.
I'm so glad I listened to my instincts and refused to accept there was nothing wrong with Jack.
My kids mean the world to me and my rollercoaster ride has taught me that sometimes a mother really does know best.
Jack on his trampoline. (Image by Clair Negri)

Oliver, 7, tells Take 5:

I feel great because I saved Jack.
If I wasn't here, he might not be here either, so I feel really good about it.
I didn't want to do it at the very beginning but at the end I kind of regretted feeling like that because now I know how important it was.

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