Sam Martin's cancer journey as told by his dad
MARK Martin has shared a moving account of their son, Sam's, cancer journey on social media for Childhood Cancer Week and to support other families.
He details the extraordinary painful experience of watching their son suffer and then their decision to stop treatment.
The entire Sunshine Coast community prayed and lit candles for Sam, hoping for a miracle.
He passed away on October 8.
These are Mark's words:
"July 25, 2013 was the day our world would never be the same again.
"As parents we heard the words no parent ever thinks they will or should hear 'your child has cancer'.
"That was the start of an incredible, eye-opening and life changing 15 month journey that ultimately saw us lose our precious eight-year-old son, Sam.
"If first hearing those words isn't earth-shattering enough, being immersed into the world of children's oncology certainly is.
"For the first few weeks after being given the 'news', your feet don't touch the ground and your head doesn't stop spinning as your world alters from that of assuring the kids have got school lunches packed, or getting them to sports in time, to a world where you have absolutely no control of anything.
"A world of countless tests, a world where a foreign language is spoken, a world where your child is subjected to all sorts of invasive and painful tests.
"As this is all going on, you are trying as best you can to deal with a new level of fear and emotions, all while trying to keep a brave face to protect - as much as you can - from your precious child.
"From the time we were told the small lump on the left hand side of Sam's face was cancerous (initially thought to be a swollen gland) to the time we received a formal diagnosis was three weeks.
"In that time, the tumour had more than tripled in size and was now occupying the space of a lemon in Sam's head.
"Those three weeks seemed like an eternity as, without a formal diagnosis, no treatment plan could be put into place.
"We didn't care what they wanted to call Sam's lump, we just wanted to get on with getting it rid of!!
"When the diagnosis finally came through from the medical school at Oklahoma University, Sam embarked on 'his' treatment plan.
"We're saying his treatment plan in inverted commas as it wasn't his as such, we were dealing with a very aggressive, inoperable tumour normally found in adults.
"The style of treatment, the intensity of the drugs were those normally reserved for adults not a fragile eight-year-old boy.
"Thirteen rounds of chemotherapy was planned along with an intensive six-and-a-half weeks of radiation in the hopes of reducing the tumour enough to remove the balance through surgery.
"Regrettable, we've all been exposed to cancer, but nothing can compare to dealing with this disease when it has taken over the body of one of your children.
"We've all seen the images of a smiling child who has lost their hair due to treatment, normally with a Naso-gastric feeding tube taped to their faces.
"As heart-wrenching as those images are to see, in reality they are oncology kids on a good day.
"Thirteen rounds of chemo and six-and-a-half weeks of radiation doesn't sound too bad, yet the actual treatment is the easy part.
"The complications and legacy caused by the treatment are another story and one that we are completely unprepared for.
"To this day, we often comment that we don't think we could of handled what Sam went through, burns to his face and oesophagus, nights in ICU due to complications from surgery, the constant nausea and vomiting.
"Watching one of your babies go through this is soul destroying and it does throw a whole new perspective onto everything.
"In February 2014, Sam had completed his radiation treatment and, unfortunately, while there was a reduction in the size of Sam's tumour, it was not enough to enable an operation to be completed.
"The chemotherapy had had little impact on the tumour.
"We were given the option of continuing with more chemotherapy, purely as a way of prolonging Sam's life, or taking Sam home to enjoy some quality time with him.
"After seeing what Sam had been through for the past seven months, we chose to bring Sam home.
"This was by no way a sign of giving up hope as we explored many options and alternatives to treat Sam once we left hospital, yet it was a decision we made purely with Sam's best interests at heart.
"Sam thrived being out of hospital and even returned to school for a while, he enjoyed being a kids again riding his motorbike, kicking a footy and fighting with his big sister, Ella.
"While the time bomb was slowly ticking, those four months Sam was home were the best.
"It allowed us to see Sam again for who he was, a cheeky, loving little boy who had a love for life and an even bigger love for his family, not a sick, bed ridden, machine connected shell of his former self.
"In July 2014 Sam started to go downhill rather rapidly, the tumour had started to grow again and at even faster rate of knots.
"We returned to hospital, not for any oncology treatment, but because Sam felt safer there as he was getting sicker by the day.
"The tumour was now the size of a small watermelon and had deformed Sam's head to the shape of a football, it has travelled up into his brain as well as protruding through his ear canal.
"We could literally see the tumour growing daily as it was coming out of his ear.
"One morning in September, Sam asked to go home.
"He wanted to be him his own bed, be surrounded by all his family and be with his dog, Roxy.
"The next month was tough, although Sam was home he was not Sam, he was a lifeless body without the ability to communicate or do anything for himself, but he was at home.
"At 19:47, on October 8, 2014 Sam quietly drifted off to sleep and joined all of the other Angels in heaven, his pain and suffering had ended."