Libby

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Libby and LunaIt was the beginning of 2015 and Libby's family had just been posted to Darwin with her dad's job in the Army. Libby was excited about starting pre-school and looking forward to making lots of new friends.

As her mum Jen was getting Libby ready for the new school year, she noticed one of Libby's eye was turned out. Jen said she wasn't too worried but went to the optometrist thinking it may just be a lazy eye. They were immediately referred to an ophthalmologist who sent Libby for an MRI.

Within a matter of days, Libby was flown to Sydney where neurosurgeons tragically discovered that Libby had four brain tumours. She was diagnosed with the condition Neurofibromatosis type 2.

Jen said it felt like their world stopped.

"We'd never heard of the condition. I just kept hoping they were wrong. All we could do was hold our breath and wait," she said.

Surgeons told Jen they needed to operate straight away on the tumour behind her daughter's eye.

Within days, four-year-old Libby was admitted to hospital and had a craniotomy. After she was discharged, they needed to stay in Sydney until they were cleared to travel back home.

Instead of having fun at pre-school, Libby was in hospital - a world away from her old life. She missed her dad and baby sister Kaitlyn terribly.

Thankfully during that agonising time, the family discovered Starlight.

Jen said Captain Starlight's visits always brightened Libby's mood and made the word of difference to their long days in hospital.

When Libby was well enough she would go to the Starlight Express Room where she loved the arts and crafts and dancing with the Captains!

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The Starlight Express Room gave us a break from the reality of Libby's illness and all the medical stuff that kids have to endure.
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Jen, Libby's mum

Back home in Darwin, Libby slowly started at pre-school but couldn't always join in the games with the other kids. Jen said it was heartbreaking to see her bubbly little girl withdraw and suffer so much pain and sadness.

"Libby had a metal plate in her head, so she had to be extremely careful with her activities. She was really restricted for those first few months when she came from hospital."

The impact on family life was immense. Libby had ongoing tests and three-monthly trips to see specialists in Sydney.

Tragically, the family faced more devastating news later that year.

MRI tests showed another tumour was growing at the base of Libby's brain. The neurosurgeon said that at this time, it was inoperable as it could end up with her paralysed and maybe even unable to breathe on her own. There was also a tumour in her nasal cavity that required surgery. Thankfully in April 2016, she had this removed with no complications.

Jen said the illness, treatment and the upheaval of all the travel has taken its toll, so they made the decision to relocate to Sydney. 

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Libby has struggled and has fallen behind in school. But she's such a lovely friend because she knows what it's like to be different so always makes an effort to be kind to others.
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Jen, Libby's mum

This year, she began to get pain and weakness in her legs and the neurosurgeon made the decision to remove an egg sized tumour from her lower spine. This came with the risk of paralysis and weakness, but it needed to be done.

Amid all the pain and anguish, Libby received the exciting news that she had been granted her Starlight Wish.

The anticipation and planning of her wish gave her something fun and positive to focus on. After lots of thinking and talking it over, Libby decided on a puppy!

Libby loves animals and Jen laughs when she says she wasn't surprised. "I'm a vet nurse and Libby's dad is a dog trainer in the Army! But it was also important to Libby to share her wish with the whole family."

LunaAfter much research, Libby chose a black Flat Coated Retriever. Jen said it was love at first sight when Libby first saw her puppy and she proudly named her Luna-Moon after the night sky.

In the lead up to Luna coming home, Libby visited her every week at the breeders and bought toys, collars and a special dog bed. She was able to come home to them a week before Libby's spinal surgery and they formed a strong bond. This helped Libby in hospital as she worked hard to get home to her puppy.

The pup is now a fully-fledged member of the family and is doted on by both girls. Luna keeps Libby company when she has to miss school and Kaitlyn loves playing with her every afternoon.

Knowing the puppy is waiting for her at home gives Libby something to look forward to at the end of her long stays in hospital. 

After all the sadness of spending so much time apart, the puppy has helped bring the girls together.

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Libby's Starlight Wish has brought us so much happiness. The puppy is the best companion we could ask for and we spend so much time together as a family playing and walking the dog.
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Jen, Libby's mum

Libby had more excitement in store when she attended the Virgin Australia Starlight 30-year celebrations. She was even given a surprise trip in a limo filled with balloons!

Libby at Starlight 30 Year Celebration

For now, Libby's condition is stable, but Jen said the future is filled with uncertainty. Libby will continue to need brain and spinal tests to monitor her condition.

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We don't know what the coming months may hold, but for now Libby is getting through each day with a smile and the joy and friendship of her best friend Luna by her side.
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Jen, Libby's mum

Libby and Luna

And to Starlight supporters, Jen said, "You don’t think you'll ever need Starlight until the day you do. The difference they make is amazing. Thank you so much."

Stories like these are only made possible thanks to our generous supporters. If you'd like to help make a difference for a child, you can donate below.
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