Lighting the way for blood cancer sufferers in Laidley
TOM and Lindy Barton will carry an orb of golden light to guide the way as they walk across the Laidley Recreation Reserve on Friday night.
They will do so as a part of Light the Night, a unique event which raises awareness and funds for the Leukaemia Foundation, as participants carry lanterns of varying colours to remind sufferers and their families that they are not alone in their fight.
White is carried by those diagnosed with blood cancer, blue for members of the community who want to show their support and gold for a loved lost lost to the disease.
The Bartons will hold a golden lantern to commemorate the memory of their daughter Carly, who lost her battle with leukaemia in 1997 while still in school.
The family was living in Melbourne when the then 15-year-old was feeling unusually tired and developed a small rash on the back of her neck.
Lindy said they were the only signs of what was to come.
"She went away on a school camp and we got a phone call to come and pick up her - she's had an asthma attack which she hadn't had since she was a baby,” Lindy said.
"We went and picked her up and she wasn't feeling too good so we took her to the hospital, ten days later they transferred her to St Vincent's in Melbourne and they finally found out it was leukaemia.
"They thought she just had ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukaemia) but she had myeloid as well. The rash on the neck was all the signs and she was a bit tired but at that stage she was a level four which as bad as you can get.”
As a member of the air force, Tom had the option to transfer to Amberley and the family made the tough call to move up to Queensland after only just hearing the diagnosis.
"We came up here and she went straight into hospital, she had treatment in the Mater (Hospital) and away we went for the next 15 months,” Tom said.
The next year-and-a-half would take its toll on the entire family.
Tom suffered a number of heart attacks and ended up having a quadruple bypass, while Lindy was so exhausted from travelling back-and-forth from home to the hospital that one day she ended up driving off the road.
The support from the Leukaemia Foundation during that tough time was, and still is, a huge help to both of them.
"The Leukaemia Foundation said I wasn't to drive anymore, they'd put us in one of their villages which was near the Mater at that time,” Lindy said.
"At the village where you stay they have social workers there too, you could talk to them any time... if we were having issues both of us could still go into the foundation and talk to the social workers.
"We can always go back there.”
But amongst all of it, there was still plenty of memories from that time that the Bartons cherish dearly.
"She wanted to make her debutante in August (1997) and (her and Tom) had a dance together and that was the end of them, I had to take them both home because they were both exhausted,” Lindy laughed.
"He'd only been out of hospital for ten days, she was just weak from the loss of blood and everything.
"I just took them both home and put them to bed - I was pooped.”
The Bartons got involved with the Leukaemia Foundation branch in Ipswich before joining the local group when it was established in 2004.
They then made the switch to Adelaide for nine years but decided to move back to the area, where they have been heavily involved in the local branch ever since.
"I just felt I was missing something, I don't know what it was really at the end of the day,” Lindy said.
"I maybe felt we were maybe close to where she had been... I can't say really. Probably something along those lines.”
The teenager loved art, Bon Jovi and English and wanted to study medicine once she left school.
"When she was going through this she said 'I think I want to do pathology because no one can say you don't know what that's like' because she had had it all happen to her,” Lindy said.
"Anything they could possibly do to her they'd done to her.”
Although 2017 marks twenty years since the loss of their only child, the Bartons said it isn't something that gets any easier with time.
They hoped the event, held in Laidley for the first time, would help families just like them.
"It symbolises a lot of things to different people and we just hope it takes off,” Mr Barton said.
Lindy will serve as one of the speakers on the night with a ceremony taking place before participants set off on a short walk.
To sign up for the event, visit the official Light the Night website and search for postcode '4341' or visit https://lightthenight.org.au/event/laidley.