John Weekes is an NZME News Service reporter based in Wellington.

Cancer gets family on its feet

Anna Pepper with Mia, Cormac, and Ethan. Photo / Doug Sherring
Anna Pepper with Mia, Cormac, and Ethan. Photo / Doug Sherring

When her 4-year-old son Cormac was diagnosed with leukaemia in April, Anna Pepper and her family found themselves in a world of regular hospital visits and now, a lot of bush-walking.

The disease weakened Cormac's immune system, leaving him vulnerable to infection. "You can't mix in crowds and you can't do the sort of things you'd normally do in a family, like go to the zoo or go to events," Pepper said. "So you end up being creative, going fishing or going on walks. Luckily, Cormac loves that stuff."

Cormac missed being at kindergarten but took frequent trips to Starship Hospital in his stride. Apart from scheduled chemotherapy, there had been a few late-night dashes to the hospital.

Pepper said Cormac's twin sister Mia and 2-year-old brother Ethan braved many hospital visits, too. She was proud of their ability to adapt.

Pepper has been amazed at how helpful people had been.

"Everyone wants to help you and everyone wants to do good, so ask for that help and don't be a proud Kiwi," she advised parents who confront similar diagnoses.

"You end up learning so much from that about the generosity of people."

Cormac was expected to have a 90 per cent chance of recovery. A generation ago he'd have had only half a chance, Pepper said. He'll probably be in hospital on and off until August 2015.

To raise money for cancer charity Cure Kids, Pepper will take a fundraising adventure walk next Sunday. Her mother-in-law, aunt and sister-in-law will join old workmates in a 13-strong team, hiking five to six hours between Bethells Beach and Muriwai, West Auckland.

And what does Cormac think of leukaemia? "He says we've got to kick leukaemia in the guts and throw it in the rubbish bin so we can move on."

Anna's page at the Peugeot Walk on the Wild Side to Cure Kids is:

- Herald on Sunday

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