Kobi RCH Patient

Meet Kobi

"Cancer can't beat me"

After months spent battling for his life in the RCH, Kobi is ecstatic that he can go home

“I kicked cancer’s bum!” Kobi says. And that’s no exaggeration.

The Bendigo boy has conquered a highly aggressive cancer after a shocking diagnosis of stage four Burkitt’s leukaemia six months ago.

The five-year-old woke up vomiting constantly on AFL grand final day after a week of unusual symptoms including sore teeth and lethargy.

Mum Casey took him to Bendigo Base Hospital, from where he was rushed by ambulance to the Royal Children’s Hospital the next day.

By that night, the family’s world was shattered when doctors at the RCH made the devastating diagnosis.

As Ms Dole says, “98 per cent of his body was full of cancer. Head to toe, full of cancer – in his bones, his pancreas, his liver, his colon and kidneys and lungs”.

“They told me, ‘Your child has cancer’ and it’s nothing any parent wants to hear.”

Another bombshell followed that night – Kobi had a 10.9cm tumour in his stomach.

“To be honest, I fell on the floor crying,” Ms Dole recalls. “I was a mess.”

Kobi became extremely ill from a dangerous complication of cancer treatment called tumour lysis and was put in an induced coma for seven days.

Ms Dole says the months since Kobi’s diagnosis have been a rollercoaster ride.

“He’s fought for his life in ICU,” she says. “He’s had a collapsed lung, he’s had pneumonia, he’s been under general anaesthetic at least 50 times. He’s had surgery so many times I’ve lost count. He has been here the whole time since grand final weekend. We haven’t left.”

Kobi’s RCH doctor, consultant oncologist Seong Lin Khaw, says Burkitt’s leukaemia is one of a few blood cancers considered an “oncological emergency” because it progresses so quickly.

“It’s a very rapidly growing tumour; it’s probably one of the most rapidly growing blood cancers,” Dr Khaw says.

“But also that rapid growth, I guess, makes it also sensitive to chemotherapy, which is designed to kill growing cells.”

Kobi had his last chemotherapy on March 11.

Later that same day, American pop star Pink dropped by with her daughter Willow to visit Kobi and other cancer patients and sing for them.

Pink scrawled a congratulatory message on a sign Ms Dole and Kobi made.

It read: “My last day of chemo! Chemo was tough! But I was tougher!”

“It was a very emotional day,” Ms Dole says. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.”

Ms Dole is thrilled the Good Friday Appeal’s funding will this year for the first time be shared with regional hospitals, including Bendigo, so kids can receive world-class care close to home.

“I think that’s amazing,” she says. “You don’t have to worry about driving two hours, it’s only 10 minutes around the corner and you know that your child is still in safe hands.

“Knowing that your child is going to get the same great care you would get if you came down to Melbourne is remarkable.”

When doctors told Kobi and his mum the cancer had gone, both burst into tears.

“He said, ‘Can I go home?’” Ms Dole says.

“I said, ‘Yep!’ And he said, ‘I kicked cancer’s a–e!’

“And I said, ‘Yes, you did!’ ”

After almost six months living at the RCH and battling for his life countless times, Kobi understands how big a deal it is to be in remission.

“Cancer’s out of my bones!” he says. “I’m proud of myself.”

Kobi can’t wait to get back home and ride his bike with his brother Darcy, 7, and play with his sister, McKenzie, 11.

The family has been planning the next momentous event in Kobi’s life – ringing the bells.

It’s a special event at the RCH to celebrate every time a patient is in remission.

“He’s now in remission and cancer free,” Ms Dole says. “And he’s very, very excited to ring the bell – and run like hell.”

Written by Jen Kelly
Images by David Caird
Published in the Herald Sun March 2024

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