Winning against all odds
Ilaria is not your average 14 year old teenage girl. She is a state title running champion who trains hard, eats well and is very in-tune with how her body acts and feels. Therefore, in February 2020, her diagnosis of acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APML) came as a complete shock.
Ilaria had just competed at the Western Australian State Qualifying Meet making it through to the National championships in all her events. The following day she felt unwell, she was exhausted, her body was cramping and she passed out. To be certain it was just post competition fatigue her mother took her to the doctors. Following a blood test in the morning, on the advice of her doctor Ilaria was rushed to emergency that evening. Ilaria was informed that she had leukaemia and her treatment started immediately.
Ilaria’s treatment spanned 10 months. In some regards she was fortunate, Ilaria did not lose her hair and was able to attend school when she was not too tired. However, because she did not ‘look’ like a cancer patient, people openly questioned whether she really was ill. This was hard for Ilaria to reconcile, her leukaemia diagnosis altered her outlook on life.
Ilaria’s treatment left her with fluid on the brain which caused severe headaches, nausea and vomiting. In March this year surgery was required and further complications followed leaving her with chemical meningitis. She lost 12kg in a week, her anatomy changed and the muscle tone and strength she had worked so hard for over the years dissolved away.
Through the support of her teachers, coach and her family Ilaria slowly recommenced training and rehabilitation. It was not easy but less than twelve months on from completing her treatment, Ilaria is doing fabulously well. She is back running as fast as she was before, and winning track meets. Ilaria also has a new appreciation for school, it really isn’t as bad as she thought!
Ilaria wants to help other teenagers on their cancer journey. She wants to raise awareness that not all cancer patients look sick and that different treatments affect people in different ways. There is hope and there are lots of new treatments available.
There are still a lot of unknowns for Ilaria but for now she is focussed on her training and knows that it isn’t worth missing a session. One day we hope to see Ilaria representing Australia.