10 May 2024

Milla thrives following battle with leukemia as a toddler

| Vanessa Hayden
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mother and daughter standing in a paddock

Kym Sonneman, with daughter Milla, was grateful for Country Hope’s assistance when it was needed the most after Milla was diagnosed with cancer when she was 15 months old. Photo: Supplied.

Kym Sonneman’s journey of dealing with the diagnosis of leukemia in her 15-month-old daughter would have been a vastly different experience without the help of Country Hope.

The organisation stepped in after Milla was flown on an emergency flight from Wagga to Sydney with pneumonia, a temperature of 43 degrees Celsius, and a mother who’d suspected for nearly two weeks that something wasn’t right.

After multiple visits to doctors trying to work out why Milla’s “cold” was not getting any better, Kym insisted her baby, who by that time was having trouble breathing and not eating or drinking, be admitted to hospital.

Blood tests revealed there was, in fact, something very wrong.

“It was the worst time of my life; a whirlwind; a nightmare,” said Kym.

“I was a single mother, working two jobs and I had two other children to look after.

“Suddenly I was told I had to go to Sydney; I broke down. I thought, I can’t go to Sydney, I’ve got other children, I’m a single mum – and had no no-one to look after them!

“The doctor told me that didn’t matter, that I needed to work something out. He said he was 90 per cent sure Milla had acute myeloid leukemia. I was also told she might not make it another 24 hours.

“She started chemo that night.”

Kym’s sister flew up to Sydney to support her and the children were left with her brother-in-law. She was left wondering how she was going to cope, let alone pay the rent back home, bills and medical costs.

“I didn’t know anything about Country Hope at the time,” said Kym.

“My step-sister had said to my dad that there was help out there because she had volunteered with Country Hope. My dad called the office and the next minute I was contacted by them and they said, ‘We are here to help’.

“They stepped in very quickly.”

double image of child in hospital and wearing a medal

Milla was 15 months old when she was rushed to Sydney Children’s Hospital with acute myeloid leukemia. Today, she’s an active, outgoing 11-year-old who loves playing sport and is not scared of a challenge. Photos: Supplied.

Within the week Country Hope’s general manager Ellie Webb drove to Sydney to meet with Kym and Milla, delivering a much-needed package of necessities – clothes, toiletries, and food vouchers.

Perhaps a small start, but it made a big difference to Kym who had arrived in Sydney with only the clothes she was wearing.

Country Hope supports country families, just like Milla’s family, financially and emotionally. Their vision is to give relief … when it matters most.

“That is our core business,” said Ellie.

“Family lives are turned upside down when they have a child diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. It affects the whole family, not just mum, dad and the siblings but the grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins, friends and even the school teachers.”

Country Hope is there for the family to try to relieve some of the stresses they face and help them along what can be a very difficult journey.

For Kym and baby Milla it meant access to much-needed financial assistance and they were provided with information to access a grant which would help get them through.

“I still needed to pay rent and all the bills at home,” said Kym.

“My two other daughters were staying with my sister in Wagga and of course I couldn’t work.

“There was a $10,000 grant available that I applied for; it was successful and it was paid straight into my account.

“That was a huge relief. As a single mum I didn’t have much savings in the bank and that money helped with the bills and anything Milla needed while we were in Sydney.

“Over the years, it doesn’t matter what I’ve asked of Country Hope, they’ve always been there and provided.

“Without them I would still be paying off loans.”

double image baby with doll and girl in paddock

Country Hope supports country families, just like Milla’s family, financially and emotionally. Their vision is to give relief when it matters most. Photos: Supplied.

Milla is now a healthy, thriving 11-year-old, in Year Five at Kooringal Public School and was recently selected for the Wagga Netball Association’s under 11 development squad.

Kym says she’s a strong and determined 11-year-old who plays lots of sport.

“She doesn’t have anything that will hold her back; she’s outgoing and she’ll try absolutely anything and she’s very sassy,” she laughs.

“Milla doesn’t remember much from having cancer, which is a good thing. I think it may have made her more resilient. Nothing fazes her – she just copes with absolutely everything.

“She knows she’s had it and she knows she has to go back to Sydney every 12 months to have tests. She’ll be monitored right up until adulthood and Country Hope will be with us all the way.

“We are still very much a part of the Country Hope family so if Milla needs to go to Sydney they help with fuel vouchers and a little bit of money so that we are not financially strained in any way.

“They always check in to see if we are going OK and how Milla is going and if we need anything.”

Ellie has been part of Kym and Milla’s life for 10 years now, and without her, Kym says, she doesn’t know where she’d be.

“Ellie has been a support and a great friend and someone I can go to, not only with Milla’s illness but with my own personal struggles. I’ve gone there many a time and cried on her shoulder because of things that have happened in our lives. Not once has she said I’m being silly. She makes me a cuppa and she sits and listens, which is good.”


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