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Horowhenua Chronicle - 2021-07-23

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Little battler fights leukaemia relapse

Real Estate

Vera Alves Social Media and Trending Reporter for nzherald.co.nz

Domanic Grant is only 9 but has gone through more pain and heartache than most of us experience in a lifetime. The youngster from Shannon is in Starship hospital, fighting leukaemia for the second time — after inching so close to remission, and has now also caught RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and rhinovirus. His mum Cherie is by his side at Starship, while dad Phil is looking after the couple’s other five children at home. They all desperately miss each other and don’t really know when they will get to see each other again — but that’s far from being their main worry at the moment. Domanic was diagnosed with Philadelphia Positive Lymphoblastic Acute Leukemia (pH+all) after an emergency trip on the air ambulance to Starship hospital in Auckland in November 2019. “At 80 per cent leukemia in his bone marrow, our fight began,” recalls his father. What ensued was a months-long battle that not even many adults are strong enough to fight but which Dom, as he is known among his siblings, handled like a trooper. His little body endured extensive chemotherapy, steroids, and all manner of treatments. Dad Phil has a permanent head injury, and struggles with frequent migraines, which makes the task of looking after his other five children while his wife is in Starship with Dom all the more challenging. Despite endless trips to the hospital to get his feeding tube reinserted only to then throw it up again, Dom managed to gain the necessary weight to not need the tube again at all. You’d be hard pressed to find prouder parents, seeing their boy persevere through this unimaginable struggle. Dom was able to move back home to recover near his family, with regular scheduled visits to hospital for treatment. His body was responding to leukaemia treatment and he was so very close to being deemed in remission. Things were starting to look up, to the point that Dom was even able to return to school for a couple of days a week. Life was almost normal. But at the start of this month, Dom relapsed. “It was a shock for us all because he’d been doing so well. He was so close to being in remission,” his dad says. The family has been apart since then, with Cherie looking after Dom while Phil cares for the other children. “School runs, dinners, washing and cleaning and all the emotional moments of explaining to Domanic’s siblings regularly why he was in hospital and why we can’t visit him,” his dad describes. “He was so close to actually going into remission, his blood count was awesome, we had such high hopes.” Phil talks to Cherie and Dom every day on the phone, but hasn’t seen them since they had to rush to Starship again at the start of this month. To make matters worse, Dom has also now contracted RSV and rhinovirus, and is on two courses of antibiotics. “He has no fighting bugs at all to fight anything,” Phil says, unable to mask his worry. “He’s very pale, he’s doing it so tough. But he’s such a happy boy, I’m so proud of him.” Dom had his birthday recently and his parents managed to get him a portable Xbox screen, with help from the Make A Wish Foundation. Dom was also spoilt with balloons, cake and gifts, with the help of Gabby’s Starlit HOPE, a community that provides random acts of kindness to oncology kids and their families. Back home in Shannon, Phil says he has been constantly amazed at the generosity of the community, including his children’s school. “Everyone has been just amazing,” he says. “They do school lunches for the kids to take the pressure off me, people drop off baking, bags full of fruit . . . It’s just overwhelming, it really restores your faith in humanity. Cherie spends her days by Dom’s side at Starship. “She’s amazing with him,” Phil says. “This is so hard on her but she just keeps her cool and makes sure he keeps his cool.” Phil says he and his wife have had their hearts broken many times over, witnessing Dom’s small body fight the cancer. At one point, the then 8-yearold boy became depressed and stopped talking altogether. “My mum died four years ago from leukaemia,” Phil explains. “Dom used to go to her blood transfusions and sit on her knee, watching cartoons. That’s why his depression rocked him quickly when he was diagnosed. He had a blood transfusion on his first day of his first diagnosis. “He didn’t speak for three weeks. He knew — because nana had blood transfusions and then died. He would wake up screaming ‘I don’t want to die’. It was heart-wrenching.” Dom, a keen gamer, found comfort in hours spent battling different monsters and demon. “He loves gaming, loves Fortnite. It keeps him busy and happy. He’s so obsessed with it sometimes he’d be throwing up because of the chemo but just aiming for the bucket without even stopping the game,” his dad says. Just last week, Dom’s three younger brothers all gave vials of blood to be tested for a bone marrow transplant. Now they’re waiting to hear back on whether they’re compatible. Phil and Cherie are scared to get their hopes up. “We’ve had high hopes before and the rug was pulled from underneath us when he relapsed,” his dad said. “I feel weak in my heart and legs, not knowing where this next journey will lead us as a family, the future is uncertain. I’m worried about not being there with him, when he may need me, and if things go wrong.” There are 545km between Shannon and Starship. Phil and the children don’t visit Dom and Cherie nearly as much as they’d like but are hopeful to be able to hug them soon. For now, there’s little hope that Dom will sleep in his own bed in the next six months. The latest hospital document states that Dom’s cancer is “potentially curable“. Reading that word “potentially” made Phil “weak at the knees”. He needs his boy home. Can you help? Phil and Cherie have started a fundraising page to give Dom the best possible chance to fight this battle: https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/helpdomanic-fight-leukemia-for-secondtime

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