Doreen parents Leanne and Andrew Magann knew something was wrong when their bubbly and bright three-year-old daughter Isla was suddenly no longer acting like herself.
Isla, with her big green eyes and black hair is the baby of the family and adored by two older siblings Jackson and Addison.
She was an active toddler, nicknamed ‘the climber’ as she would often climb anything in sight.
But Isla’s moods began to change in April 2017 – she was constantly lethargic, irritable and started to catch every bug going around.
She would fall asleep in unplanned places and eventually refused to walk.
Mother Leanne knew something was wrong – and between April and May, she took Isla to the doctor eight times with growing concerns.
Isla was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 2017 – a cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow.
She immediately began receiving chemotherapy treatment at The Royal Children’s Hospital Children’s Cancer Centre.
The day Isla was diagnosed with leukaemia, her family’s world changed. They were scared and leaned on the staff at the Royal Children’s Hospital, who assured them Isla was going to resume full health again.
After three months of treatment, Isla was officially in remission, and after eight months of intensive chemotherapy, she was getting back to what she loved doing – dancing and going to preschool.
But unfortunately two years later in July 2020, Isla relapsed.
This time her leukaemia was not only found in her bone marrow, but it had also spread to her central nervous system.
Having gone through the initial bout of chemotherapy and treatment, the Magann family knew what they were in for and the torturous up-hill battle Isla was about to face again.
After another round of intense chemotherapy was not showing promising results, Isla was eligible for CAR-T cell therapy, an innovative cancer treatment that allows the body’s own immune system to fight cancer.
The treatment involves removing a patient’s T cells, a type of immune system cell, re-engineering them in a lab and reinfusing them back into the patient to attack and kill off the cancer cells.
The treatment meant Isla was cancer-free for 100 days.
Three months later in March 2021, it became evident that the CAR-T cells in her body were waning due to the leukaemia cells returning at low levels in her bone marrow.
With this news, Isla received a second infusion of the CAR-T cells before tragedy struck again.
In April 2021, Isla’s cancer had returned with 80 per cent of her bone marrow taken over by leukaemia cells.
Two days later, she was back on very intensive chemotherapy treatment in the hopes of bringing her cancer under control for long enough to receive a bone marrow transplant.
Isla had to isolate and live in a special hospital room for six weeks as she was at very high risk of serious infection.
She then required an immunotherapy treatment to kill the remaining amount of leukaemia in preparation for a stem cell transplant, which was Isla’s only remaining hope for recovery.
In July 2021, Isla received a life-saving bone marrow transplant from an unrelated overseas donor.
The stem cell transplant involved one week of intense radiation and chemotherapy in order to prevent rejection, followed by six weeks in the bone marrow transplant suite when she waited for her new bone marrow cells to grow and for her organs to recover from the intensive treatment.
Isla is now nine months post stem cell transplant and remains in complete remission.
Although Isla’s cancer journey is not over yet, her family remains positive thanks to the support of her incredible treating team.
Led by her oncologist Dr Diane Hanna, Isla continues to receive life-saving support for her cancer care.
“I feel so lucky to have met all of these wonderful people, and I really attribute our getting to where we are today to all of them,” Ms Magann said.
“Although our family has suffered at times, we are incredibly lucky to have so much support from our family and friends.
“My children have all grown up a lot faster than they should have, but I’m so proud of us for what we have gotten through together.”
Treatment for Isla and many other children would not be possible if it wasn’t for the Good Friday Appeal. Visit goodfridayappeal.com.au/donate/ to donate.