Gerringong mum Sally Bruce knew something wasn’t right with her 11-year-old son Jet, but couldn’t put her finger on it.
He’d withdrawn from his friends, spent most of his time in his room, and he wasn’t the bubbly, active boy she was used to seeing running around on the football field.
But the reality of Jet’s deteriorating health took a dramatic turn for the worst one April afternoon when Jet came to his mum with a severe pain in his groin and what looked like a mosquito bite on his testicle.
Sally took Jet to a GP straight away.
The GP was unsure and referred the boy to Wollongong Hospital.
“We arrived there at 5pm and by 11pm we were transferred to Sydney and then he was straight to theatre that night,” Sally told the Mercury.
“At Wollongong they thought it might have been twisted testis, but an ultrasound ruled that out so then they ran blood tests.
“They took us into that room, reserved for bad news, where they had the tissues, and we found out he had some form of blood cancer.
“We left for Sydney not knowing what type of blood cancer it was.”
For the pressing emergency at that point was the infection that had take over Jet’s little body and caused his genitals to swell and turn blue.
“We didn’t know what the cancer was but we knew the infection was the thing that could kill him.
“He was in so much pain.
“We had to sign a consent form ... there was a chance they had to take everything.
“Making these decisions for a kid that would affect the rest of his life, sending him off to surgery, that was really daunting.
“But the surgeons did an amazing job and didn’t have to do any of that.”
Fast forward five months and Jet is doing better.
But the acute lymphoblastic leukaemia has played havoc with his little body and mind.
The first four weeks were a nightmare – Jet didn’t like needles and didn’t have any central line in, so blood tests twice a day took their toll.
He copped infection after infection and went down to 25kg when a fungal infection took hold of his oesophagaus.
“He’s so tiny, there’s not much fat on him, often they couldn’t find veins, they were poking and prodding this kid, he didn’t want to talk to anyone.
“And the steroids made my little sweet boy an agro emotional wreck,” Sally said.
Now, the family can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Jet is headed for maintenance chemo, largely which can be administered at home and means less stays in Sydney, away from his brothers and sisters and dad.
What has kept the Bruce family going though is the support of the Illawarra community.
Jet’s beloved footy club Gerringong Junior Lions got right to it, providing dinners for the family members left at home while Sally took Jet to treatment, and raising much-needed funds to ease the financial burden.
Her gym, F45 Shellharbour – where she had only been a member for a month – raised $2500 in one night and the owners matched it, giving them $5000 to make life that little bit easier.
“The gym and its members have been so very generous, it’s blown my mind,” Sally said.
“Honestly I could never have imagined how beneficial joining was for me at a time like this, emotionally, physically and mentally.
“But add to that their generosity, when they haven’t known me all that long, is just beyond belief.”
F45 Shellharbour studio manager Kerrie Lawrence said she didn’t think twice when she heard of Sally’s struggles and knew the members would want to help.
“When a member of the F45 family struggles, we all struggle. Their pain is our pain,” she said.
“If we can ease the burden financially when they are going through such a stressful time then that’s awesome. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare.”