Caitlyn inspires all with her tale
SHE has dreams of making it as a paediatric oncologist, an infectious smile and an unlimited source of courage but Caitlyn Jade Meiklejohn is no ordinary 10-year-old.
CJ, as she's known to her family and friends, has a brain tumour.
It is on the stalk of her pituitary gland and is about 8-9mm in diameter.
Parents Neil and Sharyn Meiklejohn first knew something was definitely not right at the end of 2010.
"Caitlyn was drinking up to 6-8 litres of water a day," Neil told the Daily News.
"Whatever she drank just went right through her.
"Caitlyn went through many tests including for sugar diabetes and others. For 5-6 months she was treated for a blocked bowel.
"Then Sharyn was looking online and found this thing called Diabetes Insipidus or DI for short."
"Caitlyn ticked seven of the eight boxes at the time.
"We went to our GP and asked about it but they initially thought it was too rare, it was more of a coincidence."
It was not until the family made the first of many trips to the Royal Children's Hospital in Brisbane that tests confirmed Caitlyn did in fact have DI.
However the DI turned out to be a symptom of a more sinister condition: a brain tumour.
The next step was to determine what was really happening.
Caitlyn was put through multiple MRIs, blood tests and lumbar punctures as doctors monitored the tumour on the gland over two years, looking for a change.
Sharyn said the easiest way to diagnose the cancer was to do a biopsy of it - or in Caitlyn's words, to go in and "get a nibble of it".
"But there were some pretty serious risks of doing a biopsy," she said.
"At the time it was only 6-7mm wide.
"It could stuff up the pituitary gland function."
Neil said their first reaction was "get stuffed, we are not doing that".
In the car on the way home they asked if Caitlyn wanted to go through with it.
"Yes," Caitlyn said.
"I want to stop having MRIs and I'm sick and tired of not knowing.
"I want an answer."
Neil said it was at this point he realised "we hadn't really appreciated how tiring it was for Caitlyn".
"When she said she wanted to go ahead, we reassessed the situation," he said.
Shortly after, Neil and Sharyn joined the other nervous parents in the waiting room while their little girl headed in for her biopsy.
"Plan A was to go through here," Caitlyn said as she pointed to the scar on her right eyebrow.
Neil said it was a nervous two-hour wait.
"The phone rang," he said.
"It was the neurosurgeon.
"He said 'good news, everything is going well, we just closed her up.
"'But plan A hasn't worked so we are going to Plan B'."
Plan B was to go in just behind Caitlyn's hairline and it was a success.
After the surgery Caitlyn slept for five days straight.
"This was not in the plan," Sharyn said.
"She wasn't supposed to sleep for that long.
"She would wake up for 30 seconds at a time, answer the doctors' questions then go back to sleep.
"On the last night the doctor said if she did not wake up they would have to put a tube down her throat so she could eat something.
"That night I stood there shaking her shoulders telling her to wake up or the doctors would have to put an NG (nasal gastric) tube in."
Sure enough the next day Caitlyn woke up.
"Yeah, I didn't want an NG tube," CJ said.
When the biopsy results came back it was determined that Caitlyn would have to undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
For Caitlyn, chemo is a four-day-long procedure.
She has to go through four cycles, one every three weeks before the radiation treatment starts.
"We have had three," Sharyn said.
"The fourth one is in two weeks time."
Caitlyn has become such an expert she even had to remind a nurse of her protocol.
"It was day two of my treatment," she said.
"The nurse tried to give me an IV. I said no thank you I don't have that today."
Neil said the nurses and doctors were not the only ones astounded by Caitlyn's understanding and knowledge of cancer.
"They are amazed at me because I am smart and because I know a lot about cancer and what type I have," Caitlyn said.
Her mum and dad are equally as impressed and proud.
"She amazes me," Sharyn said.
"She always has a smile on her face.
"She has her moments but they are short lived.
"She just gets on with it."
Caitlyn certainly is not letting her cancer get in her way or stop her from being a kid.
She is back in her Year 6 classroom at Warwick West State School.
"I am best at spelling and my favourite subject is English," she said.
"I love school."
Early last week West SS held a fundraiser and helped raise over $400 for Camp Quality.
This money is the first donation to the Shave 4 CJ event next month to raise money for Camp Quality.
How you can help
- Head to mycampquality.org.au/shave4cj to make a donation to the charity.
How to show your support
- Raise money for the Shave 4 CJ event on March 2 at Rose City Shoppingworld.
- Head to mycampquality.org.au/shave4cj to make a donation.
- Phone 0419 674 182 to make a raffle prize donation