Fighting for Liam

Written by Kerrie Alexander

Whether you call them clangers, clunkers, rust buckets or simply just dungas … hundreds of Fraser Coast residents get behind the wheel of their beloved rattly rally cars every year for one exceptionally good reason!

The Dunga Derby is run every year to support local families and individuals with life-limiting medical conditions or those who need help from a situation beyond their control.

Under the umbrella of the Rally for a Cause charity, those Dunga Derby teams have raised a massive $1.8 million since its inception in 2015.

That money has since provided support to over 100 local Fraser Coast families in their times of crisis.

Each month, the recipient families share their incredible stories with our Alive family.

Those who have thrown a dollar in a dunga tin, attended events or even sponsored a car, will read about the incredible difference those life-changing donations have made to the recipients.

The parent’s lives were turned upside down when their son Liam started having seizures at school. It was later discovered that he had brain cancer.

Rally for a Cause has been supporting the family with financial assistance so his mum, Dorin, can now be Liam’s full-time carer.

Here’s Liam’s story:

On the September 16, 2021, Liam was in the school library studying for a physics exam when he had a seizure.

The school called 000 for an ambulance because Liam was unconscious for about three minutes.
I remember driving on the highway to work in Maryborough when the school rang me. To say panic mode set in would be an understatement.

I drove back to Hervey Bay Hospital and got there before the ambulance arrived. Liam was admitted to ED and discharged six hours later with a clean bill of health; what had caused the seizure was a complete mystery at this stage.

Two days later, Liam had another seizure at home in front of myself and his dad Philip.

It was the most terrifying experience I have ever endured! As parents we both panicked initially, but the people we spoke to when organising an ambulance were truly amazing.

Liam was back in the Emergency Department and admitted at Hervey Bay hospital for three days.

By this stage, he had lost sensation and strength to his left side causing a left foot-drop that requires mobility support. The doctor that looked after Liam organised 2 CT scans and an MRI. I remember so vividly when this young doctor came into Liam’s bedside and asked Philip and I if he could speak to us in private. I knew something was serious but unsure how serious it was going to be.

The doctor was explaining what they saw in the images which was a ‘lesion’, a 2.5cm tumour that could be benign or malignant. The doctor continued saying that he had organised Liam to be transported to Queensland Children Hospital (QCH) as soon as possible for further evaluation.

I was shocked and completely shut off thinking the worst. The following day, Liam and I were flown to Brisbane by the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Philip and Chloe (Liam’s older sister) were to drive down to Brisbane later as Chloe was in her final year of high School and needed a few things organised, including our family dog.

While in admission at Queensland Children Hospital, a team from Neurology and Oncology assessed and evaluated Liam, and a date was set for a Biopsy surgery to ascertain whether the tumour is benign or malignant. After the Biopsy and sometime in hospital, Liam was discharged with a concoction of medication. Three days later, Liam had another seizure and was rushed back to ED at QCH. While in admission, Liam had a few more seizures, the neurology team tried different anti-seizure medication to control the seizure.

Two weeks after the biopsy surgery, we received the news no parents want to hear – the “C” word. I felt as though someone had stabbed me in the heart. It was and is the most heartbreaking news for me and my family. Liam was diagnosed with High Grade Glioma, a brain cancer on the right side of his brain.

The neurologist who carried out the biopsy surgery advised us they could not remove the tumour entirely because there are too many vital nerve cells in the tumour area and if damaged, it would impact the entire left side of his body, meaning he would be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life or worse.

Liam underwent six weeks of intensive radiation and chemotherapy which really knocked him around. There were good days during this period and many, many bad days, however Liam never stopped believing that he would get better one day – the power of positive thinking.

Liam was released from hospital just before Christmas and was allowed to travel back to Hervey Bay where he spent a quiet Christmas with family.

Unfortunately, Liam started experiencing severe headaches and vomiting and had to rush back to Hervey Bay ED, a CT scan was conducted and revealed massive swelling around the tumour – on that same day, Liam and I were flown back to QCH Brisbane.

Liam underwent two weeks of intensive treatment to reduce the swelling.

Liam is back home in Hervey Bay and enjoying being in his own space at the moment.

He will continue with a regular Chemo cycle for the next six months and a regular evaluation every two months at QCH Brisbane.

Liam is looking forward to starting school and catching up with his friends.

He is exercising regularly and looking forward to intensive physio sessions to help rebuild his strength.

Mentally, Liam is doing ok, he has his ups and downs as I’m sure you can imagine, but overall, it’s nice to be back home with his family.

The road to recovery is going to be a long one. It is a challenge no child should go through, but to be pragmatic, giving up is not an option!

Words cannot convey how the financial support from Rally for a Cause and Dunga Derby helped in our time of need. It reduced the stress of working out how we were going to pay the bills, such as rent, power, phone and food. I honestly don’t know how we could have coped or managed in such a stressful situation.

I have had to stop work to look after Liam fulltime, unfortunately, his father too has had a major medical issue over the past two years that has stopped him from working.

My family and I would like to thank Rally for a Cause, Dunga Derby and administration, supporters and sponsors for allowing us the opportunity to be the recipient of financial support. We are forever grateful to all of you, and those who initially advocated for us to receive this financial assistance, thank you. We hope that one day we will participate in the Dunga Derby.

Thank you all so very much.