Sale is thanks for son’s life

By Zoe McMaugh

Jack Hooke laughs, plays and enjoys life just like any other two year-old, but his short life has been unlike others his own age.

Five months ago Jack had his right eye removed to stop a very rare form of cancer taking over and ultimately claiming his life.

The youngster was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma in October last year.

The removal of his eye was a last resort decision after two different treatments to eliminate the tumour on his eye threatened his life.

Jack’s parents Marcus and Cass Hooke said the cancer was diagnosed after what they initially thought would be an appointment to address a slight turn in his eye.

‘‘He had a turned eye and we decided to get it checked, and a week later Jack was starting chemo,’’ Marcus said.

‘‘The size of the tumours was hard to measure, but were large enough to prompt an almost immediate treatment and it was fairly aggressive.

‘‘Noone is really sure how long they had been growing when they were found, but if they had been left untreated much longer the cancer may have escaped the eye.

‘‘It could have spread to the other eye, or even the brain and it may have meant Jack would no longer be with us.

‘‘It’s important for other parents to know that if they are not sure about something, if something doesn’t feel right, you should get it checked out.’’

Retinoblastoma is a tumour arising in the cells of retina, and caused by a gene that controls the growth of cells in the eye.

While it can be inherited from a parent, the Royal Children’s Hospital says most children with the cancer have no family history.

And as far as Marcus is aware, there is no history of the disease in the family before Jack’s diagnosis.

Having to watch their only child go through cancer treatment was traumatic enough for Marcus and Cass, but then the complications started.

‘‘Jack had a severe anaphylactic reaction to one of the chemotherapy agents, so they had to stop that pretty quickly,’’ Marcus said.

‘‘They then tried another form of chemo which was delivered straight in to the eye via his arterial system, and after about a month they found a bleed on Jack’s brain during a routine MRI scan, and so that was off the table too.

‘‘The removal of the eye then became the only option.

‘‘While the chemo had reduced the tumour slightly it was not enough, and the risks far outweighed the benefits.’’

Until the turn in his eye, Marcus and Cass had no clue there was anything wrong with Jack’s eyes.

While they have been unable to confirm, doctors believe his vision was at least partially compromised by the time the tumour was found.

And at removal, they estimated he had very little sight remaining in his right eye.

Jack has been fitted with a prosthetic eye, which will need to be replaced at regular intervals as he continues to grow — initially every six months, then less frequently over the rest of his life.

There will also be regular check-ups, to ensure the cancer does not return, but otherwise he’s back to being a ‘‘normal kid’’.

‘‘He should be all clear of cancer now because the removal went really well, but they will continue to monitor him,’’ Marcus said.

‘‘Jack will continue to be under the care of the RHC until he is at least 18 years old, with regular visits over the next three years.

‘‘He was just a normal kid (before we discovered the tumour), and since he’s had the surgery he is back to his old self again.

‘‘He will continue to lead a happy, healthy and adventurous life all thanks to the wonderful treatment and care from the staff at the oncology and ophthalmology departments of the Royal Children’s Hospital.’’

For that care, Jack’s parents now want to ‘‘pay it forward’’ to the RCH’s ‘Beyond Sight’ Auxiliary.

Marcus and his brother Tom, who manage the family farm and East Loddon Merino Stud at Wanganella, have dedicated one ram from their upcoming ram sale to raise money for the auxiliary.

‘‘The Royal Children’s is a wonderful hospital, and its staff are among the best in the world,’’ Marcus said.

‘‘The hospital relies on charity and donations to be able to buy specialist equipment, and this is our way of giving back for how they helped Jack and so they can continue to help other families.

‘‘Beyond Sight was established in 2001 by a group of parents whose children were diagnosed with Retinoblastoma.

‘‘Funds donated to this auxiliary go towards medical diagnostic equipment and educational tools to assist families when their child is diagnosed.’’
Lot 9 is one of 60 Poll Merinos that will be put to auction at the ram sale.

‘‘I chose that ram for the charity auction because he would suit any property.

‘‘He would perform well in high rainfall or pastoral zones, he has good muscle and fat scores, and good breeding figures too.

‘‘It’s hard to know how much the auction will earn, but we hope he can get $3000 or more.’’

The East Loddon Merino Stud ram sale will be held next Monday, September 7 at the family property, ‘Warwillah Station’ at Wanganella.

For more information about the auction, phone Tom Hooke on 0409 399 191 or Marcus Hooke on 0437 172 754.