by Alex Baird
Golfers will have an extra spring in their step today when they see cancer survivor Sienna Leeson’s smiling face at a golf day at Birregurra in support of the Good Friday Appeal.
The event signifies the importance of the Royal Children’s Hospital to the Birregurra community after the Melbourne-based facility helped save both Sienna and Birregurra’s Immy Hutchinson’s lives.
Luke and Desma Hutchinson created the golf event back in 2006, a year after their daughter Immy, who is now a healthy 13-year-old, survived open-heart surgery as a newborn.
Golfers have continued to return over the years, raising money and awareness for the hospital’s Good Friday Appeal.
But the Birregurra community was forced to rally together again in 2016 when Sienna was diagnosed with wilms, a form of kidney cancer, at the age of just 7.
This time last year the Leeson family, Sienna’s parents Chris and Claire and younger brothers Isaac and Flynn, spent Good Friday in the Royal Children’s Hospital with Sienna as she continued chemotherapy after having surgery to remove her left kidney.
The family was on the receiving end of good news in May last year, when medical staff cleared Sienna of cancer.
Dad Chris admits “the weeks leading into regular three-month scans are pretty nerve-racking”, and Sienna has still had her setbacks, like when she suffered a broken leg during the first day of a long-awaited family holiday in Queensland last August.
The family also went through another “scare” in January when doctors feared they had found cancer spots on Sienna’s lung, which turned out to be plastic from a previous procedure.
But Chris said things were slowly getting back to normal for Sienna, who has started Grade Four at the Birregurra Primary School in 2018 and has aspirations of returning to the netball court in the near future.
“Last May we got the all clear and she’s gone into remission, so since then she’s gone really well,” he said.
“Early days it took a little while to get back to normal because she had to put weight on and things like that, but she’s back at school full time now.
“She doesn’t like to talk about it much, but she’s tough and resilient and she’s grown up a lot just from what she’s been through.
“The experience has been quite overwhelming just because of the support we’ve had in Birregurra and around the Colac district, and the hospital up there.”
The Leesons will be at today’s golf day in full force, like they had before learning of Sienna’s cancer almost two years ago, on April 4, 2016.
“We’ve been going to these golf days for years, but we thought this year we might help out a bit more because it’s for such a good cause,” Chris said.
“The main thing for us is to emphasise that anyone can be up in that hospital in a matter of days, and we’re lucky how amazing the setup is up there.
“They get all the best doctors from different countries around the world, the facilities are second-to-none.”
The Good Friday Appeal has become a tradition for Victorians for decades, with people reaching into their pockets to raise millions of dollars for the Royal Children’s Hospital.
Chris said the family was also eager to promote the importance of giving blood for those not in a position to give money or wanting to make a contribution in other ways.
He said blood donors were vital in Sienna’s battle to survive.
“When she was in hospital she had over 100 blood/platelet infusions,” Chris said.
“People that can’t donate money, giving blood is just as important and it makes a massive difference, because without that she wouldn’t be here today.”
Visit www.goodfridayappeal.com.au to support.