Being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 9 means growing up fast.
Within hours of his diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia last July, Caleb Darling and his family were on a flight to Christchurch Hospital, with a seven-week stint of treatment ahead.
Thankfully, Caleb is now in remission and back in his home town of Roxburgh, and is looking forward to getting involved in triathlons at his school.
And last week Caleb was announced as one of four Child Cancer Foundation national ambassadors for 2018.
Caleb was flown to Auckland with his family, where photos were taken at the foundation head office.
It was “cool” getting the photos taken, Caleb said.
The foundation gave Caleb a choice of some fun things to do while he was in Auckland, his mother Genna Darling said.
“We went to our hotel and then we went to Rainbow’s End [amusement park],” Caleb said.
“We went on heaps of rides there.”
He also enjoyed a swim in the pool at their hotel, and another trip was to the zoo.
Caleb was proud of his appointment as a national ambassador, and he and she were planning fundraising events within his community, Mrs Darling said.
But he was also keen to continue with everyday tasks, like his first year in senior school. This term he is interested in sports.
Mrs Darling said she still travelled with Caleb to Dunedin once a month for checkups.
“On a Monday, he’ll have his bloods taken and then on a Wednesday we go down there for chemotherapy.
“Once every three months he is put under anaesthetic and he has chemotherapy injected into his spinal fluid, because normal chemo doesn’t reach spinal fluid and cancerous cells like to linger there, apparently,” Mrs Darling said.
“So at this stage, Caleb is classed as being in remission, not the remission that you usually hear of ’cause that’s after however many years of not relapsing, but they call this remission because he has less than 0.01 leukaemic cells.
“Caleb has been pretty much a textbook case. He’s not had any hiccups, fevers or infections,” Mrs Darling said.
Child Cancer Foundation business development manager for Otago Lydia Hemingway said this was a special year for the foundation as it was celebrating 40 years’ supporting New Zealand children with cancer.
“The foundation needs the help of everyday Kiwis to fundraise, so they can continue to support more than 1700 children with cancer, their parents, siblings and whanau,” Mrs Hemingway said.
“The foundation receives no direct government funding and has to fundraise, so our family support co-ordinators can be there to help families nationwide.
“What stood out about Caleb’s story was his refusal to let his cancer diagnosis get him down and determination to continue with daily life the best that he could.
“We are proud to have Caleb and his family representing Child Cancer Foundation for 2018,” she said
Street collectors would be raising funds on March 16 and 17, Mrs Hemingway said.
To make a donation, visit www.childcancer.org.nz