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Central West Queensland

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19 November, 2020

Fingerprints on Our Hearts: Mitchell Richards

By Kriste Martinez

Mitchell Richards fighting with a smile.

MITCHELL Richards is a boy who is more than a childhood cancer patient and more than the tumour robbing him of everything he has and loves. 

His story is one worth hearing, sharing, and most of all, worth remembering.

Late in 2016, Mitchell experienced the first few cancer symptoms.

His hands were numb, his eyes were dilated, and he couldn’t walk in a straight line.

Mitchell was taken to emergency departments (ED) and to general practitioners who misdiagnosed his symptoms and mistakenly gave his tumour the opportunity to grow.

Multiple visits to doctors failed to diagnose cancer.

Then Mitchell’s mother, Terese Richards, noticed her son’s eyes shaking.

“His eyes shook… at that point I said to Mitchell ‘Look mate, you’ve got to spin in a circle so we can try to get your eyes to do this again

“Then we can take you back to the ED and push them to do something.’”

At 12 years of age in January 2017, Mitchell was diagnosed with ependymoma – a rare form of brain tumour which is found in the primary central nervous system.

It was a parent’s worst nightmare and the heartbreaking reality for Terese.

The day after Mitchell’s diagnosis, he went to Brisbane where 95% of the tumour was removed.

However, it grew back.

Terese said that the team of specialists assigned to him were very professional as they decided on Mitchell’s prognosis.

“Unfortunately, whilst COVID-19 was on, we were offered a Magnetic Resonance Screening (MRI) locally however the doctors thought it wasn’t urgent.

“I think they were waiting for the brain tumour to reach a certain size to take it out again.

“We waited for four weeks because the doctors didn’t put it down as urgent and so the tumour grew.

“Now they can’t get it,” Terese worried.

Mitchell has now had two brain operations, a spinal operation, seven rounds of chemotherapy, and 76 rounds of radiotherapy treatment.

Medical treatment could not remove the tumour but were done to prevent it from growing any larger and to give Mitchell a few more years of his life.

Now doctors have stopped all attempts to save Mitchell as they have decided that there is nothing that can be done.

Terese said that Mitchell has been an amazing and resilient little boy.

“I know he’s my son but he really is just something else…

“Mitchell is a very caring and giving boy.

“He’s aware of what’s going on and for a 15-year-old it’s so unfair.

I’ve been trying not to get angry with everything and I’m trying to keep a level head for Mitchell’s sake.”

Terese’s voice was breaking when she said that ‘Mitchell had expressed willingness to be a guinea pig for doctors’ experimental treatments that might help children with cancer’.

Mitchell is a selfless and compassionate little character who deserves much more than what life has offered him.

His wish is to self-publish a book he has written on his journey with cancer.

Mitchell wants to share his experiences and leave his fingerprints on the world.

Currently, his book is 1,000 words and is almost finished.  

The Richards family will be sending Mitchell’s book to his hospital school where it will be edited and illustrated.

Terese said that the book has given Mitchell a purpose and a goal and is something to look forward to.

It is a coping mechanism for Mitchell.

A GoFundMe was created by Terese’s cousin, Katie Jackson, in August to help Mitchell publish his book.

Over a hundred donors have contributed and the fundraiser is at at $12,135.

Terese has been overwhelmed by the support from the community.

Mitchell was a student at Blackwater State Highschool which has contributed $1,600 from their ‘Wear Green for Mitchell’ fundraiser on October 23.

To read the full story, check out the Highlands Leader newspaper. 

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