THIRTEEN-MONTH-OLD Jett Hamley and his parents spent Christmas day at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital.
The sparkle in the child’s blue eyes and his wide grin are nowhere to be seen in his photograph with Santa, even though he is being presented with a sizeable gift.
Jett rests his bandaged head on his father’s chest, his face partially obscured by a bandage holding a tube trailing from his nose in place.
The photograph was taken about a week after Jett underwent brain surgery to remove a rare, but aggressive, form of cancer.
Doctors discovered the tumour at the stem of the boy’s brain on December 12, after he hit his head.
His mother, Jess Wilson, said Jett’s diagnosis of Atypical Teratoid/Rhabdoid Tumour was only the third case the Royal Children’s Hospital had seen all year, to that date.
“He had been a bit not right for the past couple of months. He just wasn’t himself,” she said.
“We took him to the doctor for a couple of things but didn’t get anywhere – they couldn’t find anything.”
Jett was pushing a little esky belonging to his father, Ash Hamley, around the house when he became unbalanced and fell, hitting his head on the corner of the skirting board.
“We did an ultrasound on the area in Bendigo and couldn’t find anything,” Jess said.
“Then he just vomited, a couple of days later, and wouldn’t stop.”
The hospital staff conducted an MRI scan of Jett’s brain.
“That’s when we found the little spot,” Jess said.
Since that day, the family has spent about four days at their home in Kangaroo Flat.
Jett was rushed directly to Royal Children’s Hospital, in Melbourne, once the tumor was discovered.
He had surgery on December 17.
“It started off about three centimetres big,” Jess said.
“They got the majority of it, but they had to leave a few fragments because of the nerves.
“The area that it’s in affects pretty much everything.”
Jett started chemotherapy on Tuesday, and has had a dose a day since.
His mother expects the side effects from the four days of treatment to kick in next week, before the next round of chemotherapy starts on January 23.
She said her son was still recovering from the surgery, having been “pretty out of it” for a while afterwards.
It might be six weeks post-surgery before his parents see his usual, cheeky smile.
“He smiles on one side – his face is swollen,” Jess said.
Walking, eating and drinking were all milestones in his post-surgery state.
Jess had been afraid Jett might not ever say Mum again, or walk.
“We’ve still got a long road ahead… it’s not guaranteed all these things will come back,” she said.
“The surgeons are positive and optimistic everything will be fine.”
“Jett took a little walk when he was home the other day.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel. His personality is shining through.”
The family is expecting to spend much of the new year in Melbourne, close to the hospital.
Their friends have set up an appeal to financially support Jess and Ash to stay by Jett’s side.
“Neither of us have an income at the moment,” Jess said.
Both parents have exhausted any available leave from their work.
Friend Kimberly Wallace set up a Go Fund Me page, which has raised more than $5000 and been shared on Facebook almost 1000 times.
“It’s been amazing, the generosity of friends and family and even complete strangers...” Jess said.
“At the moment it’ll probably just keep us eating and get fuel in the car.
“We’ve still got to pay our rent and we’ve still got bills at home.”
She said the page was also a source of moral support.
“I know it isn't much, but every little bit does help,” one donor wrote.
“No family should ever go through this. All the best for all of your futures. Especially your little man.”
Family friend Michelle Murrell, who also administers the page, said establishing the crowdfunding campaign seemed to be the least they could do.
“You don’t even have to ask, he’s just always there.
“We just thought, this is one way we can help
“We just want money to be the last thing they’re worrying about. No work equals no pay.”
Said she was trying to find a way to get the couple’s car serviced and the brakes replaced.
“They can’t afford to get it done,” Michelle said.
She’s also keen to hear from anyone who might be able to help get Jett a tablet computer, to entertain him while he’s bedridden.
“It’s just heartbreaking,” Michelle said.
“He’s the apple of their eye and has been since the day he was born.”
Jett is Jess and Ash’s first child.
“At least we can put all our focus on him, not having to worry about another child at home,” Jess said.
“You just sort of deal with it.
“It’s been hard, but this is the hand we’ve been dealt and we’ll deal with it as it comes.”
Being away from family and friends during Christmas and the start of the New Year was especially challenging, but Jess said the hospital went to great effort to make the festive season as cheerful as possible.
She said Ronald McDonald House had also been an invaluable source of support.
“It’s so surreal, it really is,” she said.
“I just want my little boy back.”
To contribute to the campaign, visit https://www.gofundme.com/jetts-fight-againts-brain-tumour