Isobel’s playground wishes come true thanks to The Starlight Foundation | HerCanberra

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Isobel’s playground wishes come true thanks to The Starlight Foundation

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“Isobel has cancer.”

For Andrew and Tegan Kominek these three words changed everything.

It was 2020 and the pandemic had just begun. Focusing on keeping their daughter and one-year-old son safe, Andrew and Tegan had just returned from a magical family holiday in New Zealand—which was brought to a sudden stop as borders began to slam shut around them.

And while they were worrying about what COVID meant and focusing on moving into their new home in Gundaroo, they were also keeping an eye on Isobel—a usually active, bubbly, and bright little girl—who had suddenly become quiet, subdued, and chronically tired during their trip.

“It was a little weird,” says Andrew. “But we didn’t take too much notice of it, we just thought she was feeling a bit off.”

But when Isobel’s childcare centre also noticed she wasn’t acting like herself and was struggling with constipation, Tegan took her to the GP.

The last thing the family expected was to be sent to the emergency ward where a large Wilms tumour was discovered on their three-year-old’s left kidney.

“They said, “Tomorrow you’re off to Sydney because she’s got a tumour you need to get checked out’,” says Andrew.

“The whole world turned upside down. You jump to conclusions, you think of everything but you still don’t know what’s happening…it all happened so quickly.”

Taking Isobel to Sydney for cancer treatment and surgery to remove her kidney, Andrew and Tegan’s life upended as they tried to care for her and their expanding family as they welcomed another baby boy, all while trying to navigate the challenges of interstate travel during the pandemic.

Izzy in her sensory garden

Unable to receive treatment in Canberra, every three weeks Andrew would drive Isobel to Sydney, leaving Tegan, Oliver, and baby Sage in Gundaroo.

Feeling isolated and alone as she spent countless hours in the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, it was the Starlight Foundation that brought a smile to Isobel’s face and helped distract her from pain while she was missing her mum and brothers.

“We always had Starlight in the hospitals and they were great, coming around and providing entertainment when Izzy was in the hospital for those long chemo treatments,” says Andrew.

And while, to the delight of the whole family, she went into remission, three weeks later the cancer was back—it was more aggressive and it had spread to one of her lungs.

Traveling to Sydney during the height of the COVID-19 Delta wave, Andrew and Isobel were forced to isolate in between trips, unable to leave the house until it was time to head back to the hospital two weeks later.

“The Canberra Hospital doesn’t really do cancer treatment or chemotherapy for kids,” Andrew explains.

“We chatted to [the Children’s Hospital at Westmead] and they decided they would train and look over Canberra Hospital doing it. So at that point, we were able to do the major chemo in Canberra, which is great…she could see her brothers, see her mum.”

While fighting against her relapse and recovering from having part of her lung removed, Izzy was granted a Starlight Wish to give her something to look forward to.

Izzy is able to play outside with her brothers

Requesting a fairy garden to play in, Andrew and Tegan were only too happy to help get their little girl outdoors, but they also wanted something to help the whole family.

“We came to the conclusion that probably something outside to play with was the answer, not an experience or a bedroom makeover or things like that. It became an easy one because Izzy wanted a fairy garden… we incorporated a playground and a fairy garden together.”

Building a fort to mimic and blend into the natural landscape, and boasting a trampoline and pink slide, the playground was finally completed in February this year. And with her central line finally coming out and colour returning to her face, Izzy is taking full advantage of the playground with her little brothers.

“I think it’s important to bring some normality back to her life,” says Andrew. “I just couldn’t believe what they built.”

“It’s helped with her brothers as well. They didn’t understand what was going on…it was a great distraction for them.”

With the Starlight Foundation aiming to raise $1,100,000 by the end of June to ensure it can continue to bring joy into the lives of children like Isobel, Tegan and Andrew just want to say ‘thank you’ for everything they’ve done—and especially for bringing a smile to their little girls’ face.

For more information about the Starlight Foundation visit starlight.org.au

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