Meet Harrison

Age 4, Cancer (Acute Myeloid Leukaemia)

When Naomi and Adam’s confident young toddler suddenly stopped walking one day – they never imagined the nightmare that would follow and hearing the words that every parent dreads.

“I walked into the hospital room and Adam said they would like to rule out the worst case scenario, which was leukaemia. And at that point everything stops.”

- Naomi, Harrison's Mum

It was one day after picking up Harrison from day care that Naomi and Adam noticed he was not feeling himself. The next day he stopped walking, complained of a sore leg, and developed a temperature. They were told by their GP to monitor him and if he didn’t improve to go to hospital. It was after being up with Harrison in pain, all night, that they called an ambulance.

At first it was thought Harrison had an infection in his hip, but blood tests revealed something different. Doctors suspected he had a form of cancer, but discovering he had leukaemia was not so easy.

“The haematology team came in and spoke to us,” Adam said. “I didn't even know what that meant at the time. But then they explained ‘this is what we're searching for, it's going to be cancer potentially’. And soon as you hear that word, you know, it's never a good word for any parent to hear.”

It was genetic testing that revealed Harrison had acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Genetic testing is not standard for leukemia, but the unique characteristics of Harrison’s cancer made conventional testing ineffective. 

“They needed to make sure that they were treating the cancer for what it was, rather than going in blindly and trying to treat a tumour that wasn't there,” Naomi said. “Because different types of cancers are treated very differently – for example, for a solid tumour compared to a blood cancer like Harrison’s, the treatment plan and drugs used are very, very different.”

Adam said the research that helps oncologists choose the course of treatment is vital.

“The time the doctors took to get it right was definitely really important because we got the right treatment for Harrison, and it worked. Had this information not been known and we had started on a different treatment plan - who knows -he might not be here today.”

Within days of starting treatment, to his parent’s shock, Harrison started walking again.

“For Harrison, given the complexity of his cancer, and how difficult he was to diagnose, to have him respond so well to treatment – to be in complete remission after six weeks – that was beyond anything that we had ever thought.”

The family now urges the Australian community to invest in cancer research which they say is what saved Harrison’s life.

“Research is one of the most important things to get any answers, for any genetic condition,” Naomi said.

“For Harrison, the research that had been done prior to him getting sick helped save our son. Research needs to continue so that the next child who is diagnosed with a rare form of AML, or any type of cancer, can get to the same spot that Harrison is in now.’’

Watch Harrison's Story

ProCan laboratory

How research is helping kids with cancer, like Harrison

Our world-first ProCan program has created the largest database of cancer information ever and is developing algorithms to help clinicians better diagnose cancers and choose the best treatment for their patient's survival.

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