At the age of five, girls usually pray to fairies to bring them the best Barbie doll, a beautiful pink dress, a new pet.
India Pappas prays for a reason much more serious than her age would suggest. Every day, in her ‘fairy garden’, she prays to fairies to keep her blood cell counts low, to keep her away from chemotherapy.
Last Christmas Day, India was diagnosed with childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). The treatment, that started only two days after the diagnosis, requires a minimum of two years of chemotherapy. When India’s blood cells are down, and the chemotherapy cancelled, she raises her arms with joy and yells excitingly “The fairies are listening to me!”.
From this mature little girl, leukaemia has unfortunately taken a lot of the child away. However, the resilience with which Indy has been coping with her illness has lifted even her parents’ confidence. Before she goes for a play-date at a friends house with her parents, she makes sure she is allowed to leave.
“Are my white cells high enough, mum?” she asks.
On Wednesday 25 September, thousands of Melburnians will take part in an inspiring twilight walk, while shining lanterns to support raising money for Leukaemia Foundation research.
By lighting the night with lantern in her hands, India will be lighting the hope for her recovery from leukaemia. Also, with her team of around 50 friends and family members being amongst the first on the list of biggest fundraisers, Indy will give hope for other kids’ futures without leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma. In her own words, “I don’t want other kids to have to have leukaemia like me, mum”.
Light the Night is an annual event held by The Leukaemia Foundation to fund research to cure blood cancer. Inspiring walks will take place across Australia again this spring, with participants shining gold lanterns – to remember a loved one; white – to reflect on their own life with cancer, and blue – to support others.
For India’s parents Jodie and Andrew, who have always worked for non-profit organisations, the event raised much interest as they knew how much donating is vital for any research. They felt it was time to give back to the foundation, so no other parents in future live with the uncertainty the two of them have to live with.
“We were lucky – if we had India 10 years ago we would have had much higher chances of losing her. With the particular type of leukaemia she has, now there is a cure rate of 90 per cent and above – that is purely because of the advances that research made possible,” India’s mother Jodie says.
“So many people are affected by blood cancer – in Australia it’s the highest rate of cancer in children. I would encourage people to donate – the research relies on funding and donations. And while there are success rates, there are unfortunately people who won’t make it.”
More than 50,000 Australian families face the challenges of leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma every day. Every 46 minutes, another person is diagnosed. And although survival rates are improving, sadly blood cancer is Australia’s second biggest cause of cancer death.
This year Light the Night aims to raise over $1 million to give hope for a brighter future by funding the work of Australia’s best researchers for blood cancer and related blood disorders.
To join or donate money to the India Pappas team, visit