ADVENTUROUS, fun-loving George Davidson is facing a trip to the other side of the world in a bid to boost his chances for survival.
About one year after entering remission, the three-year-old relapsed with cancer in May. George's neuroblastoma had returned and, instead of being near his kidneys again, the cancer had formed an eight-centimetre tumour behind his heart. Cancer had also started to invade George's spine and bone marrow.
George's parents George and Katie Davidson said each relapse dramatically reduces their son's survival rate. This has fallen from a 50 per cent chance to 20 per cent for George, who is undergoing another intense series of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation.
A United States vaccine trial in New York offers hope in preventing relapses. At the moment the vaccine is seven doses, likely to increase to 10, and administered over months that would require multiple trips to the US for George and at least one parent.
While there were other treatment options available in Australia should George relapse again, these were more akin to managing a chronic disease.
Ms Davidson said her little boy was very adventurous and funny, he loved laughing and dancing and often thought he was the boss in the household - despite having two older sisters in Lily, who turns eight this week, and Ava, aged six.
George had been loving three-year-old kindergarten until he had to start treatment again.
The relapse has been telling in how George moves. He is a little slower to get up from the couch, limps a little and has lost physical strength in the past three months.
To undertake the vaccine, the Davidsons have launched a mammoth fundraising drive with a target exceeding $400,000 to help save their boy. They said they could not do it alone.
To ask for help is not easy for the Davidson family, who had a fundraiser set up for them after George's initial stage four high-risk neuroblastoma diagnosis.
George was first diagnosed at 14 months old, in January 2019, with the rare childhood cancer most commonly found in and around the adrenal glands.
Ms Davidson said it had all happened so fast. One moment they had a seemingly healthy baby who was enjoying the warm weather without a top on. That was when she noticed his belly was protruding and got him checked for a hernia. Everything escalated.
Intensive chemotherapy bouts, surgery and immunotherapy followed as the family worked to juggle commitments, including work and school for George's sisters, about trips to the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne.
It took a while to get the balance right in the juggle but the family had hoped that was all behind them.
George was living with health complications from his treatment, such as hearing loss, and this year was diagnosed with autism. But he was getting on with life.
In May, George had bad cold-like symptoms and, after a string of COVID-19 tests, was admitted to hospital with suspected pneumonia. Instead it was revealed a new tumour had deflated his lung.
You go into survival mode. All you can do is deal with it.Katie Davidson
"You go into survival mode," Ms Davidson said. "All you can do is deal with it. You can't fall in a heap - he needs us to pretend we're strong."
The family heard about the treatment in New York from other families who had travelled to the States for the vaccine and had good results.
Ms Davidson said George's oncologist would not say no, and confirmed there had been good results.
It is a big ask for the family. The first meeting with the New York medical team, via telehealth, will cost between $US4000 to $US8000.
Before any major action can be taken, George must be back in remission. Ms Davidson said this was the key focus and could likely be another 12 months.
This will likely mean a wait until May or June next year.
IN OTHER NEWS
Mr Davidson hoped by sharing their story and raising more awareness, more effective drugs and treatment might become more available in Australia.
About 40 children are diagnosed with neuroblastoma in Australia each year, according to Neuroblastoma Australia.
It is a complex cancer with a wide range of tumours, from relatively benign to aggressive, high-risk tumours, like with George.
To support the Davidson family, click here.
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