Christmas is a particularly special time for five-year-old Linke Nel, and it is not just because she is hoping Santa brings her a hot pink electric car. It was this time of year that she rang the bell to signify being cancer-free.
“It’s very special for us now,’’ mum Rene said. “It was just before Christmas the year before that she had been told she wouldn’t make her second birthday.’’
Instead of spending thousands of dollars on presents, Rene is urging people to give to Children’s Medical Research Institute.
“I think sometimes people get stuck in the mentality that, ‘I have to give a lot to make a difference’, Rene said. “But if everybody just gives that little bit it helps make that big difference. You often get people who say, oh what can we do to help? The biggest and the smallest thing you can do is to donate towards research. Research means so much to me. It's given my child a life, it's given me the privilege of being a mum to the most beautiful girl that you can imagine.’’
It was only three years ago that the Nel family were living in South Africa on an isolated rural property when their beloved Linke got pneumonia which no antibiotic seemed to improve. When test results came in, Rene was told to drive straight to the nearest hospital - four hours away. It was soon revealed that Linke had leukaemia.
She was given chemotherapy for six months but just before Christmas was told that there was nothing else doctors could do. Instead of accepting this, Rene sent 130 emails to doctors around the world. Just 12 hours later she got a response from a doctor in Sydney who told her to get on a plane.
The next day Linke, who is an Australian citizen, was put on a clinical trial and by the end of the first month she was in remission.
“I see life in a total different way,’’ Rene said. “I'm thankful for the smallest things, even the naughty bits. Every day in the life of Linke is remarkable, you become more thankful for the smallest things, just the way - if she jumps up and does a ballet turn, and a little curtsy afterwards, the thankfulness you have towards that is just, it's an everyday thing.’’
This Christmas, Linke is anticipating starting “big school’’ next year.
“She’s very much into Santa,’’ Rene said. “She can’t write but she’ll scribble some words on a piece of paper and say, ‘Dear Santa I’ve been very good you can ask Mum’. We really treasure having every Christmas together as a family now. What I want to say to people is – if you donate that money can go to research to make sure another family gets to have another Christmas together.’’
It is very clear in Rene’s mind why her family are together this Christmas – because of the scientific work done at places like Children’s Medical Research Institute.
“The thing with CMRI and the research that goes on in Australia, it's on such a high level, but we don't all know that that's going on,’’ Rene said. “If we did we'd just go - I probably won't buy that coffee today, I'll hold out. To me research is important because it gives children a chance, it gives them that fair chance at life. Research makes the difference, research gives them a longer life, or a chance at having a normal life.
“It needs to be explained to all the people who haven't been on that journey, because what does cancer mean to you when you haven't been touched by it? It doesn't mean much if it’s somebody else's child, but once you've been on the journey, and you realise what research has given you. It's given her back to me. I completely, completely believe that if it wasn't for her doctor and the trial chemotherapy that he was able to provide for her, that we wouldn't have her today.’’
In the lead-up to Christmas, we are asking people to give to our cancer research program – ProCan.
Over the next five years, the scientists at Children’s Medical Research Institute will analyse the proteome of tens of thousands of cancer cells from all over the world.
They will compile this data and use advanced computer analysis to compare it with pathology results, genome sequencing, as well as response to treatment. This will allow a doctor anywhere in the world to have their patient’s cancer diagnosed faster. They will also know which treatment is most likely to work for that patient’s particular cancer, and what won’t.
We still need $200,000 to have a High-Performance Computer fully operational by the New Year. You can help us by donating today.