Brave Little Battler By KERRIELYN CLARK March 25, 2013, 5:03 p.m
THE end of 2012 and start of 2013 was a busy and stressful time, even by Heffernan family standards.
But now, nearly three months into the year Lenice and Andrew, a couple who are used to taking things a day at a time, have a few good reasons to smile.
In June last year, when he was 13 months old, Dexter was diagnosed with liver cancer. It was an almost unimaginable blow for a baby who has a range of health issues, which started when he was born nine weeks premature.
When Dexter was one month old, his parents were told he had suffered brain damage, which would affect his movement and control and the development of those. At 10 months old, Lenice and Andrew were informed Dexter had cortical vision impairment.
At 12 months old, Dexter received a general cerebral palsy diagnosis.
Dexter's cancer required five-hour surgery in October and months of chemotherapy.
The Heffernans dealt with each new challenge as it presented itself and in June the Kiama community rallied to raise more than $40,000 for the family.
Dexter had his final round of chemotherapy in early December. He required two platelet transfusions, the second on Christmas Eve.
But with the new year came good news. On January 2, four weeks early, Lenice, Andrew and Dexter welcomed baby Charlotte.
January also brought with it wonderful news for Dexter's parents, extended family and many friends and supporters. A CT scan and blood tests gave him the cancer all-clear.
He will now have three-monthly CT scans and blood tests to check that he remains cancer free. He will also need ongoing occupational therapy and physio.
At home in Kiama Downs last week Lenice said Dexter's future in terms of the extent of his vision problem and the limitation of his cerebral palsy were unknown.
With March being Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, Lenice said they were "not naive enough" to think Dexter would definitely walk but she said he is moving, taking steps while fully supported and more importantly returning to his normal self.
"At the start of January Dexter started to roll," she said. "So he's not crawling but he's moving.
"He is getting a lot stronger and he wants to do things. We can just see how bad he must have been feeling (when he had cancer and was undergoing treatment) and we weren't aware of it. We put it down to all of the other things that were going on in his life. The cancer just made him feel horrid."
The Heffernans have registered a team called Love Dexter in the Kiama Relay For Life, May 4-5.
Those wishing to support them can visit http://relay.cancercouncil.com.au/2013/kiama_relay_for_life/Love-Dexter.
Kiama Independent: http://www.kiamaindependent.com.au/story/1387801/brave-little-battler/?cs=1460