On the 20th of October 2008 our 2 year old daughter, Kali, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. This is news you, as a parent, never want to hear. After the initial shock of it all and realisation that her treatment was going to mean long, gruelling hospital stays, over many months, I quickly turned my attention to a life long passion of mine, physical activity/exercise. How was I going to keep a little unwell toddler entertained and active over such a long length of time under such tough conditions?
Many years in the health and fitness industry had taught me all the benefits of exercise, improved muscle strength, cardiovascular fitness, mood and increased energy levels. I adopted the “Exercise is Medicine” philosophy right from the start with Kali. Although I was unsure how much activity Kali would be able to participate in, with all the treatment’s she was about to receive, it didn’t stop me from decking her hospital room out as a fun mini kinder gym. She had a mini tramp, video game smart bike, scooter and trike.
Carpe Diem or Seize the day became our motto. If Kali was well enough, she was up and active. The activity may have been something as simple as pushing her baby doll pram around, or on a good day zipping up and down the hallways on the trike or scooter. Nurses, Doctors and Specialists would all make comment on how well she was travelling through treatment. I was not sure exactly how much of this was attributed to her staying physically active, but I was definitely determined to keep it going.
Kali initially had 6 months intensive chemotherapy treatment, where a lot of time was spent in the Royal Childrens Hospital. She was then classified in remission (cancer free) and happily able to return home to Torquay in the Surfcoast region. Home in Torquay, for 6 months, she went from strength to strength very quickly in her recovery. Not long after she got home, she fulfilled her dream of learning to stand up on a surfboard. She also snow skied for the first time and returned to her love of riding horses and playing at the park.
Very sadly on the 20th October 2009 (one year exactly from her initial diagnosis) we were told her cancer had returned and she now had to face a second and even tougher round of treatment, a bone marrow transplant. While it was hard to return to the hospital to start treatment again she was so fit, strong and vibrant looking, from all her time home being active, you couldn’t help but have some sense of optimism and feeling of hope, that she would get through this round too.
Kali is now a happy, healthy and very active 14 year old. She has a love of life and all it has to offer. Over the years she has become a competitive gymnast, horse rider, surfer and lover of all things active. She still continues to amaze her doctors with her long term recovery. I really do believe Exercise is part of the Medicine equation. It brings not only better physical health in terms of strength and fitness but mentally gives, not only the patient but parents, family and friends, a sense of optimism and hope for the future.
Little Big Steps would like to extend our deep gratitude to Gabby Pinge, Kali’s mother, who has so bravely found the strength to record and share her story.