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SUNDAY READING Miracle mates: One diagnosed with cancer, one born 11 weeks early – share their first day at school

Two brave buddies – one diagnosed with cancer and one born 11 weeks premature – have defied the odds, attending their first day of school together.

Jan 23, 2023, updated Jan 25, 2023
Miracle mates, Billie Finlayson and Isla Elmore attend their first day of school together.

Miracle mates, Billie Finlayson and Isla Elmore attend their first day of school together.

Billie Finlayson and Isla Ratnam-Elmore share a special bond.

Both born at Mater Mothers’ Hospital in 2017, at age one Billie was diagnosed with kidney cancer and Isla was born 11 weeks premature via an emergency caesarean, weighing just 1.2kg.

Despite their rocky introduction into the world, the miracle mates arrived Monday for their first day at Graceville State School in Brisbane’s southwest.

Billie’s mother, Anna Finlayson said her daughter’s diagnosis with Wilms tumour in 2019 – which most often affects children under five – was “the worst day of my life”.

We presented to the hospital at midnight after finding blood in Billie’s nappy,” Mrs Finlayson said.

“It changed everything for the foreseeable future at the time. We were lucky to have a huge village of support to get us through, but it was still an extremely difficult time.”

Billie Finlayson was diagnosed with kidney cancer at just 12-months old.

Billie underwent a six-hour surgery to remove her tumour and left kidney, and had a portacath (a device used to draw blood and give treatments) inserted, followed by further surgeries.

“She endured 21 weeks of chemotherapy as well as regular scans and blood tests and plenty of medicines,” Anna Finlayson said. 

“She was considered in remission at the end of that treatment and has been going for regular check-ups ever since. 

“My husband Michael and I always hold our breath until we get good news, you can never completely shake the fear of relapse.”

Today, Billie’s first day of prep, marks the fourth anniversary to the day of her first chemotherapy session.

“What a wonderful day for a new beginning! Both Michael and I are fully aware of how lucky we are to have come out the other side and we are thankful every day for the healthy blessing of our brave Billie,” Ms Finlayson said.

Billie met her pint-sized pal Isla for the very first time at a local library, aged only a few months old.

Isla Ratnam-Elmore was born via emergency c-section at 29 weeks gestation, weighing just 1.2kg.

Isla’s dad, Craig Elmore said his “miracle baby girl” was a fighter, after being born at only 29 weeks gestation.

“Isla spent two months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Mater Mothers’ Hospital – there were times when we thought she might not make it,” Elmore, from Graceville, said.

“We knew nothing about premature babies and are so grateful to the medical, nursing and midwifery team who helped bring Isla safely into this world.” 

Three days after Isla was born, he was finally able to hold his fragile daughter. 

“I remember her tiny body on my chest and her see-through skin,” he said.

“I look at her now and can’t believe how far she’s come. She loves running, swimming and swinging from the monkey bars – she’s active and strong.”

Anna Finlayson said the strong-willed duo, now healthy and thriving, have a special bond that makes their first day of school together even more special.

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