When Lucy Veliades suddenly developed bruises around her eyes like she'd been hit in the face with a soccer ball, her parents thought it was odd but nothing serious.
"We didn't really think anything was wrong," mum Kirsty, from Melbourne, tells 9Honey.
"It's pretty silly when I think about it, but she used to put makeup on all the time and we used to make her scrub it off ¡ we thought she'd just scrubbed her face too hard."?
The bruises faded no long after they first appeared in late 2020, only to show up again a few months later in the exact same place.
Kirsty looked all over Lucy's body for any other marks, but the five-year-old looked fine everywhere else.
In retrospect, there were "a couple of little things" that seemed unrelated at the time but should have raised red flags for Lucy's parents.
Sometimes she would lose her appetite and get random stomach aches, but that didn't seem out of the ordinary for a kid her age.
"It was nothing significant that you would have worried about by itself. She was really well," Kirsty says.
She booked Lucy in to see a GP, but even the doctor couldn't spot anything seriously wrong with the youngster. He ordered some blood tests just to be safe.
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"We got a call at 11 o'clock that night from the lab just asking if she was OK. I was like, 'why are you ringing me? Is she okay?'" Kirsty says.
It was the first time she had an inkling that something really was wrong with her daughter, but nothing could have prepared Kirsty for what happened next.
The doctor called the next morning and ordered Kirsty to take Lucy to hospital right away, as her haemoglobin count was low but they couldn't figure out why.
For two days, Lucy was subjected to a range of tests and scans and on the third day, Kirsty was introduced to an oncologist who dropped a bomb on the whole family.
That's the day Lucy was diagnosed with Stage 4, high risk neuroblastoma, a rare and potentially deadly cancer.
It had spread into her bone marrow and all through her tiny body, despite the fact that Lucy seemed perfectly healthy on the outside.
"I was really blindsided," Kirsty says. "We didn't know what it was when she was diagnosed."
Scans had revealed a huge tumour growing in Lucy's chest and abdominal cavity, which had wrapped around her heart, kidney, liver and vital veins.?
The first time Kirsty saw images of the tumour, it shocked her to her core.
"I couldn't even hear what they [doctors] were saying, I was just looking at the scan," she says. "There was just a big, big mess in her chest."
Lucy had to begin treatment as soon as possible, but doctors performed an ovary preservation surgery on the five-year-old first, as treatment would likely damage her fertility.
It was a measure her parents never expected they'd have to take, but one they were grateful they had access to so that Lucy might be able to have a family one day.
"It hadn't even occurred to me that we'd have to actually have to make those decisions," Kirsty adds.
Next, Lucy had to endure five rounds of chemo to shrink the tumour so that surgeons could remove it, but there were unforeseen complications.
Being so young, Lucy didn't fully understand how sick she was and developed procedural anxiety or 'terror' that made treatment difficult.
"You would have to hold her down to get everything done," Kirsty says.?
"She had a ridiculous amount of general anaesthetics because she had to have everything done while asleep ¡ that became pretty traumatic for everyone."
After weeks of chemo, Lucy was put under yet again for a nine-hour surgery to remove the tumour that had wrapped itself around her internal organs.
"You never think it's going to be you."?
She spent time in ICU after the surgery, then had a tandem stem cell transplant, but severe complications from that landed her in ICU again for six long weeks.
"You never think that it's going to be your family," Kirsty remembers thinking at the time.
"We're that family ¡ the family that you look at and go, 'that poor family', and then don't really think much more about it, because you never think it's going to be you."?
Lucy turned six in the ICU and remained there until she was well enough to continue treatment, which consisted of months of radiation and immunotherapy.
Finally, 14 months after diagnosis, she was declared cancer-free and in remission.?
It was an amazing moment for the family and now Lucy is a bubbly eight-year-old that you'd never guess battled cancer less than two years ago.
There have been some side effects to Lucy's treatment, like issues with her hearing, which is common for neuroblastoma patients, but she hasn't needed hearing aids yet.
Her mental health seems fine too, which has been a huge relief for her parents.
"We know that things will probably crop up in the future, but at the moment, she's really, really lucky that there's nothing stopping her," Kirsty says.
Though the family kept Lucy's diagnosis and cancer journey private at first, they're now sharing her story to raise awareness and funding for vital cancer support and research.
About 40 children are diagnosed with neuroblastoma each year in Australia and face a hard, lonely road to recovery. Sadly, many children don't make it to remission.
Lucy's family feel lucky to still have her here and want to do their part so that one day, no family will have to go through the scary journey they've come out the other side of.
"There are lots of great causes people can support and it just means that one day, if it is your child, they don't have to go through everything we have," Kirsty says.
The family is doing their part by fundraising for Neuroblastoma Australia's fun run 'Run 2 Cure', which takes place on Sunday 12th November in Melbourne.
Dad Nick will be taking part on the day, but Aussies who can't make it down for the fun run can do their part by donating and raising awareness.
"Without funding, things don't advance in cancer treatments and we don't want kids to have to go through what Lucy has," Kirsty says.
Lucy and her family are taking part in Neuroblastoma Australia's 'Run2Cure' fun-run on November 12 in the Caribbean Gardens, Melbourne. The event is dedicated to raising funds for neuroblastoma research. To register or donate, click here.