Brave Ben's cancer battle

Benjamin Jessen, aged 1 at the time of the main photograph, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on August 16 and, inset, Benjamin (now 2) in hospital.
Benjamin Jessen, aged 1 at the time of the main photograph, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on August 16 and, inset, Benjamin (now 2) in hospital. Brenda Strong

BENJAMIN Jessen seems like any other 2-year-old boy to the outside world.

Happy and full of energy, he doesn't look like a cancer patient.

His mother Renee Jessen, of Gladstone, said it's hard to believe her son is sick.

"It hasn't slowed him down at all," she said.

"I'm chasing after him with the IV.

"He is blissfully ignorant I think."

She never imagined a few bruises on her son's legs would lead to this.

"At first I thought nothing of it," she said.

"I mean what 2-year-old boy isn't covered in dirt, snot and bruises?

"But the bruising got darker and even the slightest touch would bruise his skin."

On August 16 "paranoid first-time mother kicked in" so Renee took her son to a Gladstone doctor to have some bruises on Ben's legs looked at.

Worried it was a genetic blood condition, she insisted he undergo a blood test.

"I assumed that's what it was," she said.

But the results revealed something no parent should ever have to hear. Ben was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

"My reaction was nothing short of shock, and then I guess adrenalin kicked in. I've been living off that for the last week while everything sinks in," she said.

On August 17, Renee, her husband Richard and Ben were on a Royal Flying Doctors' plane set for Brisbane.

"We just picked up and left," Renee said.

Ben underwent more tests at the Royal Children's Hospital before it was officially confirmed on August 18.

"It's been a rollercoaster," Renee said.

"But it's slowly starting to sink in."

She said Ben knows he's sick.

"We told him his blood is sick," she said.

He has now begun his first round of chemotherapy.


Ben's journey

Procedures he has undergone so far:

Lumbar puncture (to test the spinal/brain fluid for the leukemia)

Bone marrow biopsy (to confirm the diagnosis and check how everything is progressing)

Port-a-cath inserted (so he doesn't need a canula every time they need blood.. They access a small port in his chest)

2 platelet transfusions (to help clotting)

1 red blood transfusion

Daily blood tests

His first round of chemotherapy


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