Ryan's return a reason to celebrate

RYAN Kelly fought hard so his family could be home for Christmas this year.

The Trevallyn two-year-old has endured an aggressive cancer, six rounds of chemotherapy and three major surgeries within the past 18 months.

This time last year Ryan and his family _ dad Paul, mum Rebecca and five-year-old sister Orla _ were preparing to spend Christmas in Melbourne, separated from their friends and family.

Ryan, who has Down syndrome, a hole in his heart, sleep apnoea, and vision and hearing impairments, was receiving treatment for acute myeloid leukaemia.

Mrs Kelly said they were given a week to relocate to Melbourne after Ryan was diagnosed in June 2012, with only a vague idea of how long they would be there.

``There's not much you can say about hearing your one-year-old has cancer _ it was devastating, it's just a devastating moment,'' Mrs Kelly said.

``The cancer has generally got a 40 per cent survival rate, but because he's got Down syndrome that turns it on its head.

``By the time we got to Melbourne the doctors said they were confident they could cure his cancer, but they were most concerned about him dying from his treatment.''

Mrs Kelly said Ryan suffered several complications, which saw him admitted to the intensive care unit and put in isolation.

She said it was hard to watch Ryan go through bleeding, anaemia and the rigours of chemotherapy.

``We had to put gloves on to change his nappy, because the chemo was so toxic we couldn't be exposed to it, and yet we were pouring it into a one-year-old,'' she said.

``It's a very strange thing to face, that you're deliberately poisoning your child to try and save their life.''

Mrs Kelly said being in Melbourne felt like ``exile'', but the use of an apartment owned by the Leukaemia Foundation had made it much easier.

She said Ryan barely stopped smiling during his treatment.

``It's hard to explain just how tough he is. He was so anaemic at some points that if it were you or I, we wouldn't be able to get out of bed,'' she said.

``He would be dancing. He would dance, and then he would lie his head on the floor for a while, and then he would get up and dance again.''

Mrs Kelly said that after seven months Ryan was given the all-clear, and they returned home in February.

Since then, Ryan has had surgery to repair a cleft palate, surgery to straighten his eyes, and surgery to remove his tonsils and adenoids to ease his sleep apnoea.

He suffered permanent hearing loss during his cancer treatment, and has just gone on the waiting list for heart surgery.

But Mrs Kelly said it had been a happy year.

``It just feels so fantastic to be here for Christmas _ there's nothing that hasn't just been wonderful,'' she said.

``I guess, seeing the other side of it and knowing lots of people that were on the ward with us have either lost their children or they're still fighting and are going to be for a long time, it just gives you an appreciation for what you've got and how great life is.''

 Mrs Kelly has spoken out for the Leukaemia Foundation's Christmas Appeal. To donate, visit www.leukaemia.org.au.

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