In remission, Esme picks up her life again


After half a year of hell, a brave little Clutha girl and her family have just won the fight of their lives.

Esme Palmer (4), of Balclutha, returned home on Wednesday last week after spending six months in Christchurch being treated for stage 4 Burkitt’s lymphoma, a rare and aggressive disease that affects the B-lymphocytes.

Megan Palmer, Esme’s mother, said her daughter was “having a ball” being back in her old room.
“It’s like Christmas Day all over again, rediscovering her toys. She’s happy,” Mrs Palmer said.
Esme is now in remission, and will move into a follow›up programme.

“That’s the end of her treatment, basically,” she said.

“But now we will have monthly checks, which can be done in Dunedin, which is great.”
While she is “stoked” with the outcome, Mrs Palmer said it had been strange coming back into the world.

“It’s another big change when you’ve lived in a hospital setting for six months.”

While Covid-19 had made the world vastly different from when the family went inside for treatment, their own lives had changed only slightly.

“There were some differences when the hospital closed its doors to pretty much everybody except patients,” Mrs Palmer said.
“And you were only allowed one caregiver, so Jason [Esme’s father] and I couldn’t be in there together.”

But in terms of cleanliness and the nationally adopted doctrines of social distancing and isolation, the family already had plenty of practice.

Esme’s weakened immune system made this a necessity.

“We were already washing our hands all of the time, and not letting people that were sick around us. All those things that everybody does now, we were just doing long before Covid-19 came.”

While Esme was able to return home, precautions would need to be taken for the foreseeable future.

“All of her vaccinations have been destroyed by the chemotherapy . . .so it’s actually a whole year before she can be re-immunised,” Mrs Palmer said.

“That’s how long it takes her body to be able to make antibodies.”

That could complicate Esme’s progression into starting school, but her parents were uncertain.

“She is due to start in August, but we haven’t made a decision about that yet . . . we also don’t know what’s going to happen with Covid-19.”

The Palmer family were very grateful for the support given to them from the Clutha community and elsewhere.

“We have had fantastic support across the board from the local community, from the Ronald McDonald House, and from the Child Cancer Foundation. There are amazing people out there.

“If nothing else, it’s reminded us that people can be amazing. When the chips are down, people really get stuck in, and that’s awesome.”

A Givealittle page was set up by a friend of the Palmer family last year, and it raised more than $30,000 to go towards treatment.

Mrs Palmer said it made a world of difference.

“We saw families that had their lives turned upside down who then had to figure out how to pay the mortgage and pay bills.

“Not having financial worries was a life›saver.”