“Celebrating Motherhood” {A Fundraiser} | Adelaide Photographer

“Celebrating Motherhood”

Each year I put together a special promotion for Mother’s Day.
Usually this consists of “mummy & me” mini sessions, or something similar.
This year I felt a real pull on my heart to do something different.
Something that held more emotion, something that had inspiration behind it.
Something that truly honoured mums all over the world.
After all, that is what Mother’s Day is all about.
Celebrating the love, the unending giving, support, kindness and care that mum’s give so unconditionally.
At the same time, I wanted to celebrate the heroes that mums become.

No one tells you that being a mum is easy.
They never say that it will all be sunshine & rainbows.
You are never prepared for some of the battles that get thrown your way.
But something about mums is this; they become stronger, tougher, and learn to love even harder.

I would like to share with you a very heartfelt story.
This is where my inspiration has come from and I would like to share with you why and what I plan to do.
Go ahead, make yourself a cup of tea and perhaps have a tissue in hand.
I want this story to touch your heart just the way it does mine.

In August of 2012 life was about to change yet again for the Block family….
They found out that their precious little girl Lily, just 3 years of age, had childhood cancer.
She was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.
This was an incredibly hard fact to process, as just 11 years earlier, Jake (Lily’s oldest brother} battled cancer for a long 2.5 years.
How was it that this family were being prepared to do this all over again.
Where were they to begin? How do you find your feet when you have been swept from them again?
What would this journey bring as it began to unfold right before them.

While I began planning for the coming events, I have been speaking with mum, Italia and asked if she would happy for me to share some more of the personal details with you.

Here is what Italia shares:

“The first 2.5 years of Lily’s battle,  we were faced with some real devastating challenges; life threatening complications, isolation, pain and sickness. We held together with optimism to beat this like her brother had done. Lily showed her determination on an ongoing basis. Throughout each step of her journey and with each obstacle we faced, Lily never stopped smiling! Once treatment had stopped in August 2014, Lily began to venture out to achieve some goals she had set herself a while back. One of these that stands out was to climb the big lighthouse at Pt Adelaide. She had been determined to do this since the day before diagnosis when she was too unwell to attempt it. She did it! And she beamed with pride!

Lily reintegrated into the community to school and even recommenced sport and dancing, showing her sheer determination.”

It was at school where we were blessed with meeting the beautiful Block family. My eldest daughter and Lily became friends quite quickly. They both were full of cheek and personality; I think they were both just as nuts as one another. The shared some special moments throughout the Christmas holidays, such as trips to the beach and fun at bowling.

“However, in January of 2015 the unthinkable happened. Lily relapsed just 4 months after treatment stopped.

The relapse hit hard. Like a huge blow that knocked us to their knees. It was the third blow, first Jake, then Lily’s. It was surreal, but the relapse was the ultimate blow.

Lily and our family, and all relationships around us, were just holding together and starting to rebuild from the last round of intense treatment. I did what I knew how to do, and that was to go back into autopilot. Knowing the ‘odds’ weren’t good, but our family had never been a statistic. We liked to set our own numbers, odds and records.

Commencing that very day of relapse Lily recommenced isolation and the heaviest treatments available to her. The time since January 2015 has had extreme emotions, much more than ever experienced before. The lows, fears and subsequent relief over the last 4 years has been immeasurable.

This treatment was the ultimate big guns, Lily has been so heavily pre-treated that her options were drastically reduced. Her prognosis was classed as high risk of treatment not working. Our only option at this point was a Stem Cell Transplant (Bone Marrow Transplant).
This is done with intensive chemotherapy, complete further isolation and then total body irradiation and conditioning.
This would all happen over in Sydney, meaning our family had to look at 4-6months of being relocated. After this, there would be a couple more years of recovery at home. This too, would not be an easy road, as treatments and complications would still present.

This was a huge upheaval to everything, my husband and I couldn’t work, my son had to leave behind school, family and friends (who are very few due to also living isolated his friendships have suffered), and also leaving behind my oldest child. It wasn’t only the financial and practical sacrifices, it was the unknown as to whether Lily would survive the transplant, but we knew if she didn’t have it she would live longer than a few months.

After arriving in Sydney Lily was admitted into hospital and out into isolation, which is a very small hospital room where she would need to remain until safe, and 8 days of the most extreme treatment began, called myleobalative treatment to kill off Lily’s bone marrow completely with 6 rounds of total body irradiation and the most toxic chemotherapy to ensure lily bone marrow could not recover, hence no cancer. There were no promises it would work, no promises she would live and no promises her cancer wouldn’t return. This treatment killed off her bone marrow and nearly killed her in the process, she was kept alive by constant supportive treatment. On the 3rd day of October 2015 Lily received an unrelated cord blood infusion (bone marrow transplant) from an anonymous donor overseas. This mother saving her cord blood has saved my daughter’s (a stranger’s) life. Then from that day began the complications, treatments and side effects from having a transplant. Usually the the isolation is 100 days long but Lily’s complications (having severe graft vs host disease- where the donors cells are attacking and trying to kill lily) has meant Lily is still isolated and undergoing treatment. This is now more to deal with, the light at the end of the tunnel comes closer and then fades in the distance continually. I know things are improving, just much slower than anticipated. These complications are the price of beating the cancer. And we just pray it (the cancer) stays away.

Well…after 3.5 years and 14 months of isolation straight, including the bone marrow transplant, on January 19th of this year, the Block family had finally heard the words they were so desperately awaiting…
‘Lily is cancer free’!!

The sheer relief that we felt is indescribable.
Lily continually gets her bone marrow checked to see if she remains cancer free. She remains in the highest risk category of the cancer returning even after all that treatment and the transplant. The first year after is the most common time, next is making it to 5 years cancer free.

What Lily has endured is beyond cruel and she has come so close to death many times. As a mother who could not love her children anymore it has been hell. To watch your child suffering is heartbreaking. Your faith is tested, many relationships broken and every aspect of your life is turned upside down. Childhood cancer and, specifically for us, Leukaemia is a devastating beast that requires just as evil treatments and complete isolation from your life as you knew it. Watching your child go through this changes you, your priorities, outlook and your perceptions of life. I will never again complain about seemingly insignificant things.

We know that Lily’s treatment still keeps going as she is fighting serious complications and side effects of this life saving treatment. Isolation is still in place and her future is very uncertain. We refuse to sit and wait, but we choose to live everyday grateful for being together and ‘living’ as much as Lily can. At the moment Lily is thoroughly enjoying baking! And she is pretty darn good at it too.

There is so much she has missed out on, over half of her life has been spent in grueling treatment and isolated. So with each easing of restrictions we aim to live life to the fullest. Moving forward and not letting cancer define Lily’s life.

We have every day to be grateful for. We have made many special friendships and bonds along this time with other families going through this path (of which there are many hence why more research, trials and treatment options need to be developed. Blood cancer treatment has come a long way thanks to those dedicating their lives and careers and for the donors and donations, but there is still such a long way to go). We have witnessed many mothers losing their babies and children which is beyond words or comprehension to be able to accept this. We can help change this.

I admire Cassie’s calling to help with this cause, I know as a Mother (an Oncology mother in this cancer journey), photographs play a significant role. I treasure the photographs we have and the emotions many of them bring as we look through them. Some bring great joy with success while others show of the battle we are overcoming. Through everything, good and bad, Lily is always smiling.

Lots of love and Blessings,

I have spoken with Italia over the past years and heard some of the most heartbreaking stories as she has shared in part and sometimes more, of what they, as a family, have been through.
No one should have to experience this.
Lily is one of the most beautiful little girls I know and she truly does have a smile that lights up the room.

Italia, you have been such an incredibly strong woman. A mum who has endured so much more than some of us could even begin to comprehend.
I want to raise money for the foundation that has been by your side throughout this whole journey and I want to offer this special mother’s day promotion in your honour.

I have big goals for raising money for the Leukaemia Foundation, but that means I need your help to do it!

Throughout the month of May, Cassie Lou Photography will be holding a special event.
It won’t be just for one day or a couple of days, but it will be for a whole month!

“Celebrating Motherhood”
I have designed special “loved ones sessions” that offer three different packages for you to pick from.
To book in your session, you will pay a $100 sitting fee.
My plan is this… I will be donating 100% of your sitting fees to the Leukaemia Foundation.
I am aiming to raise a minimum of $2000.00 This means 20 bookings!

This is where I need your help!
I will be holding these sessions throughout the whole month of May, and if we book out, then we will book throughout the whole year to fit everyone in.

These sessions can be done for a whole range of reasons.
A great Mother’s Day gift for Mum {or even Nanna}, perhaps you have overcome cancer and want to give back while also having some updated family photos. Maybe you are going through your own battle. I want to be able to capture some very special memories for you, but in doing so, raising money for a life saving foundation.

I can’t wait to share this with people in our wider community and begin to make a small mark into the raising of much-needed funds.
Please also share this post so we can bring the awareness to more and more people.
I want to be able to achieve something great with the passion and gift of photography that I have.
I’ve been in contact with the Fundraising Co-ordinator for the Leukaemia Foundation and cannot wait to further share in this process with her.

Further donations can be made if you feel on your heart that you want to give more.
As a part of this, I will also be offering the Block family a special package along with having their family photos taken, once Lily is able to be in contact with others again.

If you have a message for the family or any other questions for me regarding booking your spot, please click to “contact” tab.

Italia and Lily, you mean the world to me and my family, as well as so many people that you have touched over the years.
Italia, you have already given so much back to the foundation, and it is something that I want to recognise and tell you that you should be so proud of.

CLP xx

*Here is a look at photographs from some of Lily’s journey*
Thank you so much Italia for allowing me to share these precious memories.


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