Newfound best friends Millie-Rose and Darcie, both 4, may have met under some of the most trying circumstances – but their mothers are thankful they’ve found each other.
The girls’ bond goes much deeper than most childhood friendships, as they are each battling cancer and undergoing intensive treatment regimes at Christchurch Hospital.
Both from Dunedin, Millie-Rose and Darcie have found companionship, strength and hope since meeting at our 26-room Christchurch House in March this year.
Millie-Rose’s mum Carol says she knew something was wrong with her little girl when she noticed a large lump on her neck in February, leading to a diagnosis of metastatic neuroblastoma and a 16-18 month treatment protocol in Christchurch.
Darcie’s mum, Cheryl, says after vomiting and complaining of headaches on a family camping trip in February, it wasn’t long before they flew to Christchurch where Darcie was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma and began an intensive six month chemotherapy regime.
Today, the girls both have feeding tubes held in place by brightly coloured Disney stickers and have lost their bundles of blonde hair due to gruelling chemotherapy cycles.
Too young to completely understand what’s going on, Millie-Rose believes there is ‘rust’ in her tummy which the doctors are helping to get out, while Darcie has been told when the lambs are born and the daffodils come out in Spring she will get to go home.
Despite the heartbreak these families are facing, Millie-Rose and Darcie have found happiness by spending time together.
Carol says her family would be lost without the friendships of families and staff at the House.
“At Ronald McDonald House we are home. We have a sense of belonging because of the friendships we’ve made and the battles we are all facing together.”
Likewise, Cheryl says staying at the House has been the positive part of Darcie’s cancer journey.
“When your world comes to a complete halt and your life as you know it has been ripped out from under your feet, the House is the safe place you find yourself accidentally calling home.
“It’s where you take time out of the hospital, spend time with family and make some amazing friends too. Even after five months not a day goes by where I am not amazed by the generosity and kindness that bursts from its doors.”
Both mums praise the Family Dinner Programme which operates almost every night of the week for removing the stress of organising meals.
The House also allows Darcie and Millie-Rose’s Dads and big brothers to visit from Dunedin in the weekends and school holidays – always a sure way to lift the girls’ spirits.
Carol and Cheryl beam when describing the heart-warming bond between their daughters.
“They’re two peas in a pod, it’s like they were meant to meet each other,” says Cheryl.
Millie-Rose has learnt to ride a bike while staying at the House, while Darcie has come out of her shell and regained her confident and cheeky personality.
The first two months of Darcie’s treatment were gruelling, and because of this it was like she had lost trust in people, says Cheryl.
But with loyal, loving friend Millie-Rose by her side and feeling at home at Ronald McDonald House, Cheryl says it’s been amazing to see her personality come out.
While the future remains uncertain for the Dunedin families, Cheryl and Carol say they are living life moment to moment.
But the girls have big plans for when they grow up; Millie-Rose wants to be a black and white schnauzer or a nurse, and Darcie wants to go to school like her big brothers.
Meanwhile, Darcie and Millie-Rose are happy cuddling their mums in our lounge, playing hide-and-seek under our office desks and giggling through the House hallways – because nothing beats having your family and friends by your side when you’re sick.
To find out how you can help these brave girls and to check out our latest ‘House Happenings’ take a look at our latest newsletter.