Mitchell Luders, 12, in 2014.
Mitchell Luders, 12, in 2014. Brenda Strong

Highs, lows and challenges of a child with cancer

GLADSTONE teen Mitchell Luders' family has been told the tumour he has been battling is due to a rare genetic mutation, meaning he has one of the rarest types of neuroblastoma.

Mitchell was nine when he was first diagnosed in 2011.

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The new diagnosis means Mitchell can participate in some new clinical trials that specifically target this rare mutation.

Arrangements are being made to get him to Sydney where the trials are being run, as soon as his blood counts have recovered from the latest round of chemotherapy.

Mitchell is the first patient in Queensland to have this tumour type confirmed.

His grandmother, Merrian Ross, has shared her family's story about Mitchell's battle with cancer, outlining the highs, the lows and the challenges faced:

Mitchell was nine when he was diagnosed with cancer on August 31, 2011, and it was that day that our lives were changed forever.

Prior to the devastating diagnosis the local doctors thought he had appendicitis, so his first operation was to remove the appendix.

Following the surgery in Gladstone it became necessary to explore further, so a trip to Brisbane specialists was arranged.

After diagnosis' the aggressive treatment necessary to save Mitchell's life was over 500km away in Brisbane, and so began the family's new normal way of life - separated and away from home.

My daughter left behind her husband and two more children, Dylan and Chelsea, gave up her job, her home, and friends and made a commitment to Mitchell to be there with him at the Royal Children's Hospital in Brisbane, whatever it took.

Mitchell's initial treatment was aggressive and included six cycles of chemotherapy, a major surgery, a stem cell transplant, five weeks in isolation and four weeks of radiation.

MOVIE STARS: Mitchell Luders and friends enjoying the Gladstone Cinema’s gold room.
MOVIE STARS: Mitchell Luders and friends enjoying the Gladstone Cinema’s gold room. Luka Kauzlaric

This treatment took him to the brink of death before he was finally cancer free on July 4, 2012.

They both returned home and settled back into family life and slowly found their new normal.

On a routine exam in March 2013 the family was devastated to be told that Mitchell's cancer had relapsed and he would need more urgent treatment.

Neuroblastoma is aggressive and extremely difficult to treat after relapse, so prior to starting any treatment, the family and myself took Mitchell on his dream trip to Japan to see the Pokemon Centre.

It was an amazing time that we will treasure forever.

Mitchell started treatment again in June 2013 and although he has had some success, his cancer is proving very difficult to beat and sadly keeps returning.

He did have a short period of being cancer free again in March 2014 but once again the cancer returned.

His treatment is still ongoing and we haven't got him back in remission yet, but he is handling the treatments well and we are hoping to return home again soon.

During treatments and at times when he is feeling unwell, Mitchell likes to daydream and plan things to do when he is well again.

He has started his own wish/bucket list of things he wants to do one day.

Firstly he wants to grow a beard and experience what it feels like.

The other is a trip to the Nintendo Centre in America.

We are working towards making sure he achieves as many as possible.

Mitchell is in for the fight of his life with the odds greatly stacked against him, but he is determined to make the most of every day.

The latest hurdle Mitchell has mastered was five days of chemotherapy last week and he has been coping fine so far.

He's still eating heaps and being his silly fun self which is great!

We have received some very unexpected news which will now throw Mitchell's treatment in another direction.

At this stage surgery has been ruled out due to the significant risk to Mitchell's life, so that plan has been postponed for the time being.

Mitchell Luders, 11 and his friend Steven Vesel, 10 formed a bond while being treated for neuroblastoma.
Mitchell Luders, 11 and his friend Steven Vesel, 10 formed a bond while being treated for neuroblastoma. Luka Kauzlaric

We received advice on March 18 that the specialist testing on a section of Mitchell's tumour completed overseas has identified a very rare genetic mutation in Mitchell's tumour tissue, which confirms he has one of the rarest types of neuroblastoma, which may help to explain why it has been so difficult to treat.

However, what this now means for Mitchell is that there are some new clinical trials available that specifically target this rare mutation, and arrangements are being made to get him to Sydney (where the trials are being run) as soon as his blood counts have recovered from chemo.

Mitchell is the first patient here in Queensland to have this tumour type confirmed and these drugs are getting very good results, so we are very happy with this news and so are Mitchell's doctors.

The hope is that these drugs will stabilise and shrink the tumour to the point where surgery can be reconsidered.

We are just happy that we still have options and a plan in place and we still have hope for a cure for Mitchell, because that's all we really want.

Mitchell never complains and just wants to fight this awful disease and win.

His incredible attitude is infectious and he is definitely MY hero.



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