Connor Clarke is away from family and friends in Melbourne facing the biggest battle of his life

FIGHTER: Connor Clarke (left), whose passions in life include football and racing with his pony Pride of Petite, is battling Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Main picture: Kate Healy

FIGHTER: Connor Clarke (left), whose passions in life include football and racing with his pony Pride of Petite, is battling Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Main picture: Kate Healy

Connor “Rocket” Clarke is no stranger to competition on the sporting field, but now he’s fighting his toughest opponent – cancer.

Last month the 14-year-old Phoenix College student was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, a cancer rarely seen in children.

More used to toughing it out on the football field, in the pool or on the racetrack with his pony Pride of Petite, Connor now faces an extended stay in Melbourne, away from family, to receive treatment at the Royal Children’s Hospital.

Doctors initially told his parents Belinda and Steve that chemotherapy would last about 18 weeks, but the recent discovery that his cancer is stage four means it is likely to be longer.

For at least the next five months the family are split between Melbourne and Ballarat, with one parent at hospital and one at home to work and be with Connor’s siblings aged 20, 11 and 10. 

It was a mother’s intuition that something serious was afoot that led to Connor’s diagnosis.

Connor had suffered pain from fluid in the knee for almost a year with doctors diagnosing Osgood-Schlatter disease, a condition seen in fast-growing active teens. Despite numerous doctor and hospital visits and medical tests, when the pain spread to his hip and back and there were days he could barely get out of bed, Mrs Clarke demanded answers.

Connor was admitted to Ballarat Base Hospital where scans found lesions and spots on his spine and hip that were most likely cancer.

“We were sent to RCH on July 4 and our whole world crashed down. It got even more real when they wheeled him in to hospital and straight to the cancer ward.

​While the diagnosis is a nightmare for the Clarkes, support from the harness racing community, family, friends and the wider Ballarat community has buoyed their spirits.

“We have always been the ones to help others and it’s quite hard being on the other end,” Mrs Clarke said. “Saying thank you doesn’t seem enough for everyone’s support.”

Several fundraising events have been held for the Clarke family, and a gofundme campaign has been established, to make it easier for the family to spend time together.

Ballarat and District Trotting Club will hold a fundraiser race meeting on September 9 where $10 from the sale of each ticket will be donated to the Clarke family.

The Go Fund Me page can be found here.