Meet Poppy

13th September, 2019

Little Poppy’s heartbreaking chemotherapy routine

Poppy Esenyel gets her sparkly shoes strapped on and her camera packed when she knows it is hospital day. After eight months of chemotherapy, the six-year-old is — heartbreakingly — an old hand at cancer treatment.

Still protected by her childlike naivety, Poppy treats her visits to the Royal Children’s Hospital as a day out. She knows she’ll get a special lunch, she will take some selfies with her favourite nurses with her new camera, meet some new friends also tethered to their IV poles and do some crafts while the drugs drip into her bloodstream.   

Poppy and Registered Nurse, Felicity Allan.  Picture: Poppy Esenyel

“More and more of her personality is starting to come through again,” mum Courtney said.

“For a while, she was a bit more shy and reserved; she probably felt terrible from the treatment.

“Now she’s bright and bubbly. She talks to the nurses and makes friends with the kids. She’s got such a good presence about her.”


It was a lump in her throat and a persistent cough that were the first signs something was wrong.

After numerous GP and hospital visits, Ms Esenyel took her daughter to the RCH’s day clinic.

The doctor ordered a blood test. The pair thought they would be home by lunchtime with a prescription to help Poppy shake her virus.

“Five doctors came in. I just broke down because I knew,” she said. “It’s like when the police show up on your door step.”

That was eight months ago.

What is additionally heartbreaking about Poppy’s story — the upheaval it has caused to her family after eight-months of treatment, including the arrival of her baby brother Kai just after her diagnosis, and the toll the treatment takes on her little body — is how common it is.

Poppy with fellow Oncology patients, Georgia and Marcus. Picture: Poppy Esenyel

The RCH sees about 40 children a year with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, making it the most common cancer it treats.

These children all face at least two years of treatment. Five years after diagnosis is when you can first start talking in terms of beating the disease.

“On the whole she hasn’t really complained,” Ms Esenyel said.

“I’ve tried to talk to her about it and ask if she knows what’s wrong. I ask if she knows why we need to go to the hospital, but she doesn’t ask questions.

“I just say your blood helps you when you’re sick and makes you better. Your blood is not working. That’s enough for her.

“She is very trusting in what everyone is doing.”


Originally published in the Herald Sun, April 17, 2019

Words: Brigid O’Connell

Images: Jay Town and Poppy Esenyel

To read the original story, visit the Herald Sun website

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