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The story behind the ‘face’ of giving day

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The story behind the ‘face’ of giving day

Wishlist’s important fundraising event helps support Sunshine Coast and Gympie patients and their families on many varied health journeys.

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 in Caloundra, was diagnosed with large B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma last year. This is 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 the majority of the past year in hospital, enduring seven gruelling rounds of chemotherapy.

As the eldest of four siblings, Jeremy’s diagnosis was a devastating shock to his close-knit family.

Initially dismissed as allergies, his condition became progressively worse until one day, Jeremy says, “I was like blue lips, super puffy and mum rushed me to the hospital”.

“From there, I was told it was cancer,” he says.

“At first, it took quite a while for me to process but once I did process it, I did shed a few tears.

“They did a biopsy of my chest, as my cancer was in my chest area.

“We started chemo and from there the journey started.

“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 endured six months of chemotherapy. During treatment, his parents witnessed him face isolation and challenges that no mum or dad want to see their teenager go through.

“You can only be proud of the way Jeremy handled it,” his dad says.

“He 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.

“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 setback 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,” he admits.

“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’.

“It was hard to go through more rounds of chemo and those rounds made the others seem so easy.

“Even though I didn’t express it, I have never been so scared in my life.”

Mental health challenges, nausea and discomfort became a daily reality for Jeremy – 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 dad says.

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 including 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,” he says.

Motivated by a desire to bring hope and inspiration to other families facing similar struggles, Jeremy is the ‘face’ of this year’s Wishlist Giving Day on Wednesday, March 27.

“I’m just very grateful for the care I received – and I know my parents are, too,” he says. “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.”

Wishlist Giving Day is a 12-hour fundraising appeal aimed at raising more than $200,000 to support the growing health needs of Sunshine Coast and Gympie patients and their families.

Thanks to generous corporate matchers such as Exemplar Health, Cooloola Window Tinting, Sunshine Coast Challenge Golf, Sunshine Toyota, Protector Aluminium, the McDowell family, Just Better Care, GVS Reliability Products, Acceler and more, donations made on Wednesday, March 27, will be matched. That means every dollar you give is doubled to make a very real difference to local patients and families.

Individuals, businesses and teams are encouraged to give a little and help a lot on this memorable day. Participants could organise a crazy dress-up day, bake sale, raffle or even head into Wishlist Giving Day Headquarters at Sunshine Coast University Hospital on the day to be part of the volunteer caller team.

Wishlist CEO Lisa Rowe says the Wishlist Giving Day, now in its fifth year, has profoundly impacted the growing health needs of Coast patients and their families.

“We’re calling on the local community to join us in making this Wishlist Giving Day our best one yet,” she says.

“This year’s generous donations will fund essential services to improve women’s health, support a youth program and continue vital patient support services like accommodation, Clown Doctors and therapy dogs that help patients just like Jeremy. Together, we are stronger. Give a little, help a lot.”

Find out more and give generously on Wishlist Giving Day at wishlist.org.au.

How Wishlist is making a real difference in people’s lives

  • $1,344,121 spent in the past 12 months supporting Sunshine Coast and Gympie hospitals for staff, patients and their families ($430,348 has been spent purchasing medical equipment, $693,014 in support services and $220,759 in research)
  • 874 – the number of patients and families accommodated at Wishlist Centre in 2023
  • $4013 – invested in recreational, sporting and craft resources for mental health patients at Nambour Hospital
  • $31,900 – donated by a generous local family to launch the Adolescent Day Program for 10 struggling young people to attend over two semesters this year
  • $7716 – spent on the purchase of a real-time ultrasound for biofeedback on pelvic-floor muscle activation for men who have undergone a prostatectomy at Gympie Hospital
  • 11 Wishlist vending machines supporting the growing health needs of locals – on the way to installing 100 vending machines this year.

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