Tom’s month of 10s topped off with a truck surprise

Tom at the wheel of his favourite Peterbilt truck. Pictures: MIKAYLA VAN LOON.

By Mikayla van Loon

A truck enthusiast 10-year-old was given his dream gift to celebrate the milestone birthday as truck drivers from around the Lilydale area banded together to surprise him with a visit.

Tom celebrated his 10th birthday on Saturday 13 April surrounded by his adopted Lilydale family at Lillydale Lake.

Moving from New South Wales to Sale, Victoria in the middle of last year Tom’s parents Troy and Tumay Mussio weren’t prepared when three months later Tom was diagnosed with leukaemia.

“It actually just came about from a sore shoulder. He had a sore right shoulder and I came home one night after work and he had a really bad fever and the shoulder was just getting progressively more sore and it was really tender,” Troy said.

“We took him to hospital the next day and did some blood tests and they said they weren’t really sure, maybe it’s just a really bad infection. We got him home, tried him on antibiotics and two days later, I was going to work and he just went into the shower and passed out.

“He said my knees are sore, my back is sore, my ankles are sore, my shoulder is sore everything’s really sore.

“We took him to the hospital at about six in the morning and probably about three or four in the afternoon, the paediatrician said ‘there’s no easy way to tell you this but there’s very strong markers for blood cancer or leukaemia’.”

Being urgently rushed to the Royal Children’s Hospital, Troy and Tumay had to be in hospital with Tom full time for four weeks while he underwent treatment.

Having only moved to the southern state, with no family around to help, a fortuitous connection made years ago gave this family a home away from home in Lilydale.

A chance meeting with Janette, the now owner of the Lilydale Pine Hill Caravan Park, when on a trip to Horn Island not only led to Troy and Tumay meeting but to the long connection which allowed them to find accommodation as Tom went through chemo.

“When we moved to Victoria we said we’ll be able to catch up a lot more often now and we did and then a couple months later Tom fell sick and they really became our adoptive family,” Troy said.

“Basically every weekend all the kids come and they all play together and there’s a little recreation block they go to and they have campfires and sleep outs and so we’ve been drawn into their family which is really sweet but without it, it would be really really hard.”

Not only was it Tom’s milestone birthday worth celebrating but he also just completed 10 weeks of intensive treatment and by all indications, doctors are happy with the results.

“He’s got a week of monitoring and then next week, he’ll have another daily dosage and then he can come home,” Troy said.

“Then for the next 18 months to two years it’s roughly every 10 to 14 days he’ll come in, have a round of chemo, stay for the day or maybe the night and then come home.”

Troy said for Tom the doctors had given a “very good prognosis for full recovery” early on, given his age and the type of leukaemia they were treating.

“We’re very lucky that the type of leukaemia he has is a more common type of leukaemia, and it’s one of the more treatable ones,” he said.

“The first month of treatment, they do bone marrow aspiration and they drill into his hip, take out the marrow, and they assess it to see how much leukaemia is in there and it was like 91 per cent of the cells being produced out of his bone marrow had leukaemia attached to them.

“After four weeks of treatment it went down to 0.01 per cent, which is remission. He’ll get through it but it’s just a longer journey.”

The months of 10s also continued, with Troy able to raise over $10,000 for the Leukaemia Foundation with support from friends, colleagues and strangers who have followed Tom’s journey.

Surprising Tom with his favourite Peterbilt trucks, the smile couldn’t be removed from his face as he climbed into the driver’s seat and saw the engine.

Tom said “it’s my dream” to one day drive his own truck, either a Peterbilt or Kenworth, coloured either red or black.