As Camp Quality prepares for the launch of their newest local fundraiser, Twilight Tables, Karmen Fraser shares the story of her daughter Kari, a Camp Quality child since the age of 2 years.
Karmen tells of her family’s involvement with Camp Quality and the upcoming Twilight Tables event.
In 2005 you welcomed your beautiful daughter, Kari, into the family. I suppose you were thinking she would be a normal, healthy little girl; however, she was sadly diagnosed with a Wilms Tumor at just 18 months old. How heavily did that impact upon your world?
Our whole world changed overnight; everything was out of our control. We had a beautiful healthy baby girl one minute and a terminally ill baby the next. We had to give up everything we knew overnight … our house, jobs and leave our 2 boys aged 5 and 8 behind and start on this rollercoaster to saving our little girl. We lived in Sydney for 3 months and flew there and back every other week for 9 months whilst on chemotherapy.
The impact at the time was mind blowing, but over time we found a path we could manage and as long as we saw Kari’s big smile each day, we knew we would all be OK.
Wilms Tumours occur in 1 out of every 200,000 to 250,000 children and don’t usually strike until the child is 3 years old, so Kari was a special case right from the start. What is a Wilms Tumour, and how does it affect the victim?
Wilms Tumour (Nephroblastoma) is a rare kidney tumour cancer. It affects the child in many ways and can sometimes be misdiagnosed due to very few symptoms. Generally a child may have a fever, vomiting, weight loss, blood in urine and may have a large swelling of the stomach due to the tumour.
Kari had high fevers, vomiting when she ate, night sweats, no energy, strong smelling urine and generally just looked like she had gastro that lasted 9 months. Her tumour was tucked under her rib cage and was 7cm – 9cm on measurement.
Kari started her treatment at just 18 months old. How hard was this to cope with, for her AND the family?
Kari started weekly chemo which left her very sick, most weeks were spent in hospital. This meant our boys were left with family a lot, which was very hard on them. This sort of protocol treatment effects all family members in many ways and can sometimes be harder on the siblings than the sick child. It can be hard to find an even balance with all children, work, and each other.
Just 12 months after starting treatment, Kari took part in her first Camp Quality camp. How do you think Camp Quality helped Kari get through the early days?
Camp Quality was great for Kari; she is very outgoing and the treatment left her very withdrawn. Camp Quality gave her something to look forward to. She was able to join the other kids within Camp Quality and with the help of the wonderful companions, have some unconditional fun, which made her smile again.
Camp Quality is still a big part of Kari’s life. How important have Camp Quality been over the years, and in what ways have they helped?
Camp Quality in some ways is Kari’s life. She loves the unconditional love and support they give to her. The friendships she has with the kids in Camp Quality can never be replaced. Camp Quality for us has been our saviour.
With the love and support of the local office to the wonderful companions, Camp Quality have shown us there is happiness away from our every day cancer-run life and that we can stay strong as a family, support each other and to know that with love, laughter and a strong support network, we will see our little girl grow to be the most amazing young woman.
Kari’s treatment appears to have been successful enough for her to start Kindy, so things are looking up.
Kari’s treatment was very successful; she still has some health issues that will always slow her down, but she has started school and is in Year 1.
She is limited to what sports she can do; dancing is her passion at present. All in all, she maintains a happy, fun loving life and lets nothing hold her back.
Camp Quality are launching their inaugural Twilight Tables event in November. What is the event about, and how has your family been involved?
Kari has been asked to be the face of Camp Quality’s fundraising campaign for this event. We support Camp Quality in any way we can and feel it is a major honour to be asked to take part.
This event is to give everyone there an insight into childhood cancer and the impact it has on the child and their families. The funds raised will go to providing these kids with some much needed fun camps filled with love, laughter and support for a brighter future.
Will you continue your involvement with Camp Quality as Kari grows up? Why/why not?
Camp Quality is part of Kari. She loves every aspect of the foundation. We will continue to support her involvement for as long as she wishes. She is only 7, yet already wanting to become a companion when old enough so she can give love and fun to another sick child. As our children get older, we will continue to do as much for Camp Quality as possible.