It really does take a village to raise a child — that’s what Lucy Lazzari’s parents found.
And it takes an even bigger group to look after a child battling cancer.
As well as mum Georgie, dad Sam, older brother Harry, 6, and Lucy’s grandmother Janne — who put her life on hold to help out — friends, neighbours and strangers have come together for her. A local cafe even held a fundraiser.
But there’s also the many doctors, nurses and specialists after a cancer diagnosis.
It also takes a special child to attract such a following.
“She’s the captain,” Sam Lazzari says, looking at four-year-old Lucy. That much is clear as Lucy sits on her dad’s knee when we meet at The Royal Children’s Hospital.
The family are in the middle of a four-night stay to see if Lucy is ready to begin chemotherapy again.
She was diagnosed with a very rare bilateral Wilms tumour last October — a diagnosis which meant Lucy had tumours growing on each of her kidneys.
Usually bubbly and energetic, Lucy kept getting fatigued, and that started the alarm bells ringing.
“For about two months leading up to Lucy being diagnosed, she was just constantly unwell,” Mr Lazzari says. “Then she started to lose a bit of weight.
“She wasn’t eating, she had no appetite and she wanted to lie down all the time, as sitting up was so uncomfortable. She was just so out of sorts.”
Then she got a fever, but nothing could have prepared them for what was to come.
Ms Lazzari took Lucy to their local GP in Newtown, Geelong, and the doctor sent Lucy straight to Geelong Hospital for an X-ray and further testing. There, she was given the preliminary diagnosis of a Wilms tumour.
“They didn’t even have to say cancer. I knew,” said Ms Lazzari, who has herself battled cancer.
Lucy and family were transferred to The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, where her treatment began.
Doctors soon found Lucy had double trouble.
“On her left kidney there was an 18.5cm tumour, and they found lesions on her right kidney too. That was on the Thursday – on the Friday she had her port put in and started chemotherapy that night,” Mr Lazzari says.
“The moment it was bilateral, it was all hands on deck.”
Six weeks of treatment later, scans revealed Lucy’s tumours had shrunk, so she got the green light for surgery.
“It took eight hours. They removed her left kidney and found three tumours on it, and four on her right kidney,” Mr Lazzari says.
“The right one was cherry-picked, stitched up and clamped (to preserve it).”
Since October, Lucy has also undergone eight lifesaving blood transfusions.
“Those blood transfusions are liquid gold,” her mum said.
“We can’t thank everyone enough. She was brought back to life. We are so grateful for those blood donors out there.”
Finally, after four nights in ICU and four nights on the ward post-surgery, the Lazzaris were allowed to return home.
Lucy has two more rounds of chemotherapy ahead of her — ending 26 weeks of treatment — and then regular three-monthly check-ups.
But she is back home, surrounded by so many who care.
“It really takes a village to get through a challenge like this. And we feel we’ve got the most incredible village out there,” Ms Lazzari says.
Lucy is one of the many children who enter the RCH each year. Today’s Good Friday Appeal helps ensure they can receive the care they need.
Originally published in the Herald Sun, April 10, 2020
Words: Alanah Frost
Images: Alex Coppel
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Shepparton sisters Ellie and Maddison are selling handmade Christmas cards to raise money for the Good Friday Appeal to help other kids.