A cycling challenge is proving to be a big test of strength for Aussies but, in comparison to what Newcastle’s three-year-old Sophie Wigman is facing, it is no great feat.
Sophie has spent the last few months fighting for her life against pre-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia – an aggressive, fast-growing type of blood cancer.
What started as some high temperatures and lethargy earlier this year turned into something much more sinister.
Her mum Amanda knew something was not right and, after a trip to the emergency department, blood tests indicated that she had leukemia.
It threw the family’s world upside down. Amanda, her husband Michael and their six-year-old son Alex had to join Sophie on an unimaginable battle.
Since March, the sweet little girl has faced intense chemotherapy, six lumbar punctures, more than 50 blood tests, 28 days of steroids, three blood transfusions, two MRIs, and a million other pokes and prods.
“When we got the diagnosis, it was just like a nightmare,” Amanda says.
“I just wanted to wake up from it all and think: ‘Oh that was just a bad terrible dream’.
“I remember thinking: ‘She’s going to die right here’, and I couldn’t hug her or touch her.
“She had just shut off from us, she was feeling so sick.”
Amanda adds that, since diagnosis, it has been very hard.
“It’s the not knowing if she is going to relapse – that is always playing on your mind and I guess the unpredictability of it all,” she says.
“If she gets a temperature, she has to go to hospital; she has such a low immunity, so it happens frequently.
“We will be happily doing our own thing but then all of a sudden she’ll go downhill.”
Despite some incredibly tough days, Amanda says Sophie still manages to smile through it all.
Having faced cancer herself, she knows what Sophie is going through.
As a teenager Amanda fought Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – another type of blood cancer that begins in the white blood cells called lymphocytes.
Amanda says it’s a club you never want to be in and adds research is vital to help people through it.
So, when the Children’s Medical Research Institute reached out to the family to see if Sophie would be an ambassador for its Great Cycle Challenge, Amanda did not give it a second thought.
“It’s just such a good cause,” Amanda says.
“They are working on what cancer means for the future and hopefully it is less of a big deal than what it is now.
“Any type of exposure for this terrible disease is great, and to think that Sophie is helping to raise funds is amazing.”
The Great Cycle Challenge calls on participants to raise funds while cycling throughout the month of October.
The challenge can be done anywhere, with cyclists able to choose the distance they want to cover while calling for people to donate to the cause.
Children’s Medical Research Institute’s scientist Dr Tony Cesare says money raised will provide his laboratory with funding for vital research.