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Building a new world

The days are long for nine-year-old Liem Walters, who has been forced inside while receiving treatment for leukaemia. To break up the monotony and give him a chance to embrace his imagination, Satan’s Little Helper provided a few LEGO sets.

It happened out of the blue. One morning Liem woke up complaining of a sore tummy and when the pain increased dramatically, his dad Brian phoned paramedics who took Liem to hospital where doctors ran a few tests and discharged him the next day. The morning after his stomach pain, Liem felt tired and drowsy, but as his previous night’s sleep had been so disrupted, it didn’t seem out of the ordinary. “The next day, Starship hospital called and told me he had cancer, so we brought him in. Doctors sat him down, injected him and then you’re on the treatment rollercoaster immediately.” It can be hard to put what that feels like into words. Watching your little boy have poison pumped directly into his veins while you can do nothing to help him isn’t something any parent wants go through. “When you’re told treatment will take two and a half years, it feels like it’ll never end. But here we are, nearly at the end.” “I also learned quickly that this isn’t about me. It’s about Liem and supporting him through this.” It turns out the pain was caused by acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, which can be treated with intensive chemotherapy. “In the first few days, Liem was struggling to take his life saving meds,” recalls Brian. “I had to sit Liem down and say ‘Liem, you need to take these medicines. You need to take every pill we give you or you will get sicker and maybe never go home ever again.’ “I had tears in my eyes when I said that, and Liem asked me why I was crying. I replied that they were happy tears and since that moment Liem has taken every pill and every medication and he is doing well. “On 31 August 2022, they’ll stop the medicine and see what happens. Next, Liem will be monitored for the next five years to see if his blood cells recover to normal levels.” In the meantime, Liem’s immune system is heavily compromised – a living nightmare for any parent during Covid. He’s been forced inside for years, which can make life tedious. Satan’s Little Helper hates to be bored and hates to hear about deserving kids in the same situation, so Liem was provided with plenty of brand-new LEGO to keep him occupied! “When he’s bored, he’ll sit there with nothing to do and feel rubbish,” explains Brian. “But when he’s focused on building his sets an hour or two will pass and it’s an hour when he’s not thinking about cancer, he’s just focused on the mysterious world he’s building and life is ‘normal’ for those few hours. “Providing some LEGO might not seem like much, but the recognition from other people about the tough time we’ve been through that means so much. “It also boosts his spirits, which is so important when the road to recovery is so long.” Thankfully, Liem’s story looks likely to have a happy ending. He’s started socialising, albeit in controlled environments and will soon return to school. But on the days when he’s forced inside, at least he’ll have something new and exciting to occupy his mind.

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