Cracking jokes and bringing a smile to people’s faces is 17-year-old Jeremy’s speciality, little do many know that behind his brave facade Jeremy has been battling an aggressive blood cancer.
The Year 12 student from Unity College Caloundra was diagnosed with Large B Cell Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma last year – an aggressive type of cancer that develops from the B-cells in the lymphatic system and affects the immune system.
Instead of spending his final years at school with his mates, mountain biking, and doing all the things he loves, Jeremy has spent majority of last year in hospital enduring seven gruelling rounds of chemotherapy.
As the eldest of four siblings, Jeremy’s diagnosis was a devastating shock to the close-knit family.
Initially dismissed as allergies, Jeremy’s condition got progressively worse until one day “I was like blue lips, super puffy and mum rushed me to the hospital”.
“From there, I was told it was cancer,” Jeremy says.
“Sometimes it still doesn't feel real because, as a young person, you don't think of getting cancer. Sometimes you're just unlucky.”
Jeremy’s mum Toni explains: “The lymphoma treatment plan given to Jeremy is referred to as fast and furious as it’s very intense but for a shorter timeframe than some cancers - months versus years).”
“Jeremy being a big car buff found the name of the treatment somewhat amusing and jokes that he took on the fast and furious chemo route.”
Jeremy endured six months of chemotherapy - during treatment Jeremy’s parents witnessed him face isolation and challenges that no parent wants to see their teenager go through.
“Jeremy required platelet and blood transfusions, was hospitalised on numerous occasions with febrile neutropenia (fevers due to very low immunity) and skin infections.”
Despite the hardships, Jeremy maintained a brave face, determined to shield his family from additional distress.
“Since I'm the oldest brother I had to kind of step up a little bit and be the person I'd want my siblings to be,” Jeremy says.
“Mum and Dad were taken away from my siblings during my treatment, so I wanted (my brothers and sister) the least concerned as possible. I was just trying to look at everything positively and push on.”
Jeremy faced a devastating set back around four months after chemotherapy.
He went for a routine PET scan which showed a hot spot remained, and he would need a further three rounds of aggressive chemotherapy.
“That was probably the lowest time for me.
“I would be thinking I’d beat this thing - let me go home doc - but to be told I had to go through hell again, that drove me into a wall.
“It was heart crushing because I did everything right and everything I was told to do - if the doctors said I should eat a certain type of food or drink - I did it. I ate all my veggies, fruit and everything I was told to do and it felt like it wasn't good enough.
“To be told I’d have to be bumped up to the Frankenstein level of chemotherapy was difficult to accept, but I thought - okay I can conquer this, what do I have to lose? I've already lost my goldie locks,” Jeremy jokes.
The subsequent rounds of chemo were incredibly tough on Jeremy and his family.
Mental health challenges, nausea, and discomfort became a daily reality for Jeremey, all while his parents juggled work, care for their other children, and frequent visits to support their son through the challenging times.
“There were some moments where you question if it was real because cancer is just so evil.”
Jeremy's resilience and positive spirit led him into remission in June last year.
Now back at school, working part-time, and slowly returning to his beloved activities like mountain biking and camping, Jeremy reflects on his changed perspective on life.
“At the start you just think about getting to the end of the treatment, and when you’re on the other side it changes your perspective on life. Even touching grass gives you goosebumps here and there, I now have a different experience on life.”
Jeremy’s parents are looking forward to him reconnecting with friends and living a full life.
Motivated by a desire to bring hope and inspiration to other families facing similar struggles, Jeremy will be the ‘face’ of this year’s Wishlist Giving Day on Wed, March 27.
“I’m just very grateful for the care I received – and I know my parents are too. Mum used the Wishlist-funded Parents Retreat which kept her close during those hard times, and the therapy dogs lifted my spirits – it brought that little bit of home to the hospital.”
MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR OUR WISHLIST GIVING DAY ON WED,MARCH 27 2024!
Every contribution, big or small, plays a crucial role in transforming lives just like Jeremy’s.
Join us for 12 hours of excitement and generosity, all aimed at supporting public hospitals on the Sunshine Coast and Gympie through the provision of medical equipment, research, education and patient support services.
It is the one day of the year where donations are doubled, thanks to our generous corporate matchers.
To find out more about Wishlist Giving Day 2024 and create a positive impact that resonates far beyond the 12 hours of fundraising head to :