Alyssa Hann, 16, is still coming to terms with the fact she won’t be able to leave hospital — let alone play football — for the next few weeks as doctors begin urgent treatment for leukaemia and a rare blood disease.
By the Adelaide teenager’s bedside is her mother, Kylie, who says Alyssa is doing her best to remain positive.
“A couple of nights ago, I think realisation hit and she was absolutely terrified … terrified of where this is going,” Kylie said.
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Which is not surprising given this rollercoaster medical ride started with a simple backache.
However, over the next two days, that backache became intolerable and Alyssa went to hospital — where doctors eventually discovered she had cancer.
“She came to me with a sore back. We went to the chiropractor just for a bit of manipulation and (she) felt much better,” Kylie said.
“The day progressed and the pain got a little worse.
“(Then) it got to the point where she couldn’t sit still, she was in that much pain.”
Alyssa Hann (right) is being supported through her treatment by her mother and father. Credit: Supplied
Kylie called an ambulance to take Alyssa to hospital on September 29.
Doctors ordered a series of blood tests which revealed her haemoglobin and platelets level had dropped.
“They did another test and the haemoglobin went back up … but her platelet levels stayed so low,” Kylie said.
“We got released because there were no signs of anything. MRIs, CT scans all came back all normal. Just in her blood there was a bit of inflammation, so we left with steroids and anti-inflammatory antibiotics.”
Later that night, Alyssa complained to her mother the pain had returned.
Alyssa will remain in hospital for the next 30 days for chemotherapy. Credit: 7NEWS
“My child was in excruciating pain for 15 hours and no matter what pain relief they gave her, it didn’t touch it,” she said.
Struggling to breathe, Alyssa was admitted to the intensive care unit, given a general anaesthetic and intubated.
Further blood tests showed she had a rare blood disease known as hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) and acute myeloid leukaemia.
Alyssa began chemotherapy on October 6, and has just finished her first cycle.
“We then have to sit and wait for 25 days and see how her cells are going, what grows back and what doesn’t,” Kylie said.
The family have been told the 16-year-old will need a minimum of two cycles of chemotherapy and, at some point, they will need to travel to Sydney for a bone marrow transplant.
“There’s a lot of information and some of it she doesn’t want to hear, so we choose to remove ourselves from the room,” Kylie said.
“She’s a kid with a massive heart. She said to me, ‘As long as you and dad are OK, I’m OK’.”
Alyssa Hann is undergoing chemotherapy for leukaemia. Credit: Supplied
Leukaemia Foundation general manager of health services Kathryn Huntley said the signs of blood cancer can be difficult to detect, and can begin like a cold or flu that is reoccurring.
“For a lot of people there’s increased fatigue, real tiredness, night sweats, bone pain, unexpected weight loss, bruising and enlarged lymph nodes,” Huntley said.
“Anyone experiencing symptoms like that really should have that discussion with their GP.”
The survival rate for children aged under the age of 14 diagnosed with leukaemia is about 90 per cent, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
But Huntley said this can vary for people living regionally because of their limited access to a GP.
“We’re trying to raise awareness of what the blood cancer symptoms are and advocate that people do take that first step and get those symptoms looked at,” she said.
Kylie said while it’s unknown why Alyssa had back pain, she suspects the cancer and blood disease affected the bone marrow in her spine.
Alyssa, a keen footballer, will remain in hospital for at least the next month, and will be unable to play sport, attend school or go on the trip around Australia she had planned with her sister.
Alyssa Hann played A-grade football before her diagnosis. Credit: Supplied
“Even getting to the toilet, walking to the toilet … is a massive deal,” Kylie said.
“(She went) from running and playing (A-grade football) … to now getting out of bed and it’s exciting that she can walk to the toilet, which is 10 steps away.”
The Hann family created a GoFundMe to help support them while Kylie, a local government employee, is with her daughter throughout her hospital care.
“I’m scared, I’m worried … and it’s only a week since diagnosis,” Kylie said.
“I can’t go back to work at the moment … and I want to be here with (Alyssa) because she’s my number one.
“Even as a 16-year-old child, she still wants her mum.”
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