IT was the cough that wasn't a cough at all.
On May 21 this year, three-year-old Alex Hosking ran up to his mum Monique "in a coughing fit and panicking, holding his throat and struggling to breathe."
The winter cold and cough Mrs Hosking thought had affected her son was, in fact, T-Cell Lymphoma - with a tumor size of 10cm x 12cm x 7cm.
"The growing mass had collapsed his left lung, placed pressure on his heart, trachea and vena cava," Mrs Hosking said. "He spent the next 10 days in Children's Intensive Care sedated and ventilated. His condition continued to worsen until the chemotherapy began to shrink the tumour enough for him to gain respiratory function."
It is the stuff of nightmares for the Gladstone-born parents, who also have an infant daughter Ella. But the pair are overwhelmed by the support they have received from the community.
"Hairless for Hosking (is a Facebook page) created by my sister. It's a way for us to communicate to family and friends who live abroad and interstate on Alex's treatments and progress, and promote raising funds for the Leukaemia Foundation," Mrs Hosking said. "When Alex started chemo and losing his hair, everybody on the Facebook page either shaved, waxed, coloured or cut their hair to show their support."
Mrs Hosking estimated the page had raised over $3000 within the first few weeks of Alex's diagnosis, the proceeds of which went to the Leukaemia Foundation.
"We have also received a huge amount of emotional and practical support from family and friends which is invaluable," she said. "We can't thank them enough. We think about them all the time and will be forever grateful."
What Mrs Hosking describes as a "bit of a juggling act" would drive most parents to despair.
Her three-year-old son Alex, diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, is in the process of learning to walk again after intensive chemotherapy has decreased the muscle mass in his legs. Doctors also discovered blood clots in his lungs "by chance" during a routine CT scan. On top of that, Mrs Hosking and her husband Sam have a 10 month old daughter Ella who obviously requires full time care.
"In the past eight weeks, we've been at home as a family for only 15 nights," Mrs Hosking said. "Sam and I do shifts at the hospital as one of us has to stay home with our 10 month old daughter Ella. It's a bit of a juggling act between hospital, work and home but we've managed so far."
Despite the difficulties the family has faced, Mrs Hosking said her son is "still the cheeky little devil we love."
"Children are amazing. They are so resilient. Alex feels awful some days but still has the energy to get out of bed, play with his toys, enjoy movies and eat his favourite food. All without whining and self-pity. He's our little hero," she said.
The Hoskings know there is still a long way to go, but are still positive about Alex's future.
"With every cancer treatment, there's a period of time you must endure before getting the all-clear. (Alex's treatment plan consists of) aggressive chemotherapy plan for 6-9 months where they hit you hard and then a further 18 months of maintenance chemotherapy which, in Alex's case, consists of a single tablet, daily," she said. "He'll have numerous X-rays and CT scans for follow up until that five year mark where we will hopefully have the 'cure!'"
"The good news about T-Cell Lymphoma is that it's extremely aggressively growing but responds particularly well to Chemo and in turn, decreases just asfast. This type of lymphoma is also considered highly curable as once it's gone, it's expected not to return."
What can I do?
Donate blood or plasma
"Alex has already received two blood transfusions and he knows that the blood given to him to keep him well, was given by a beautiful person who took the time, knowingly, to help others." - Monique Hosking
Donate to charity
"Donating to any charity/foundation is a wonderful thing," said Mrs Hosking. "In our minimal experience, we only know of the few big foundations: Lymphoma Australia, RedKite, Leukaemia Foundation, Ronald McDonald House and Starlight Foundation. All have helped us in some way already."