Wendy’s Story

In January 1979 my pregnant wife Trudie was admitted to St Vincent’s Private Hospital in danger of miscarrying. That left me with the pleasant job of looking after our two and a half year old daughter Wendy. We had a fine time together as Wendy was an energetic, articulate little girl and a real challenge. She was, however, complaining of a sore tooth so I took her to the dentist. He found a lump the size of a pea in her left lower jaw. Although he felt it was most likely nothing to worry about he suggested I should consult a doctor.

Our doctor examined Wendy and also thought that there was nothing to worry about, but, being very thorough, he organised an appointment with a specialist at the Royal Children’s Hospital. The specialist also felt there was little to worry about, but, just to be sure, he organised a biopsy. The results showed that Wendy had a malignant tumour, rhabdomyosarcoma, a tumour of the muscle of her jaw.

I was in a state of shock. Unable to confide in Trudie for fear of distressing her further, I felt all at sea, but my immediate family rallied around me. Initially, Wendy responded well to treatment and went into remission. In April she relapsed, was admitted to hospital and died there on 7th of June 1979 realising our worst nightmare.

After Wendy died we wanted to support the parents of children who were in a similar situation. We had slept on the floor beside Wendy as there were no facilities for parents at the hospital at that time. We saw country people living in nearby motels, away from their friends and families, in shock and with little help from outside. The doctors and nursing staff were wonderful but could not do everything.

Jerry Gold, a family friend, suggested that we could raise funds to support families by sponsoring a book award to be called the Australian Children’s Book Award. He contacted the Australian Book Council on our behalf, but this project proved too hard and was abandoned.

Mary McGowan, then in charge of the cancer ward, introduced us to Lois and John Tasker who had lost their daughter, Katie, and they, in turn, brought Karen and Nigel Hayes, who had lost their son Scott, to a meeting at our home where we proposed forming an auxiliary to help fund research and support families facing a similar situation to that in which we had found ourselves.

CIKA was born at that meeting. Katie loved butterflies, Scott loved to watch seagulls and Wendy had planted nasturtiums just before she was hospitalised and continually asked if her flowers had come up yet. We decided to incorporate these three symbols into the CIKA logo in their memory.