Update: Congratulations to Lachie and his U16 Div 2 Vampires who won their Grand Final match! Details here.
Lachlan ‘Lachie’ Barber recently ran out onto the field for his 100 games. As his U16 Div 2 East Brighton Vampire side faced off against the East Malvern Knights, it’ll be a great end to a long journey for the sport-loving Lachie, who’s had more than his fair share of setbacks. But as his parents say, he’s never asked: ‘Why me?’
On November 11, 2008 Lachie, who had been feeling tired and wasn’t beating a frustrating cold, didn’t want to go to school. His Mum, Michelle, decided to take Lachie to the doctor and get a blood test.
“That night we were in the cancer ward,” Michelle said.
“Lachie was diagnosed with ALL (Acute lymphoblastic leukemia) and with that kind of leukemia it’s one of the most common childhood leukemia’s, it’s one of the easier leukemia’s to treat but it also has the highest likelihood of relapse.”
But right from the beginning, the football community has been around him and is ready to watch and cheer him as he runs though his banner.
“The club was a rock of support during those tough first few weeks, everyone knew each other at the club so when the news broke out it became a common discussion,” Lachie said.
“… Before my family and I knew it we were overwhelmed with support from close friends, coaches and complete strangers.”
After missing the season after his diagnosis, Lachie was eager to get back out on the field for the next season.
“I’d just completed a huge chemo cycle and had been out of action for a very long time,” Lachie recalled.
“I woke this one Sunday feeling pretty ambitious and told Dad that I was going to play, to my surprise he smiled and said: ‘Good, I’ll be waiting in the car’.
“We got to the ‘hallowed turf’ (Toorak park) our home ground and I couldn’t wait to get into the change rooms and see the boys.
“I had bald hair and looked like I hadn’t had a decent feed in years but that didn’t bother me, all I cared about was getting a goal to my name.
“Sure enough about 10 minutes into the first quarter I was pushed in the back and received a free kick directly in front, I stepped back took a deep breath and kicked the first goal of the game, the crowd went wild and I think the whole team came and got around me,
“I think I subbed myself off after that because I was already spent, nevertheless it was still the best moment.”
After his diagnosis, Lachie came back to play throughout the rest of his treatment. While taking oral chemotherapy tablets and receiving intravenous chemotherapy every month, he was still playing footy. While kicking goals and taking the big grabs used to be his favourite part, he’s now looking at footy from a different approach.
“Nowadays I tend to cherish the simpler things like running out on the field and having a real crack with the mates after a hard week of school,” Lachie said.
“Football is an escape from the busy life a normal year 10 has to deal with like choosing V.C.E subjects and completing a never-ending supply of homework and that’s why I love it.”
His family has had to jump the hurdles of Lachie’s cancer together, with a younger brother, Ash, who didn’t understand what was happening to the family dealing with business ventures.
“We also just signed off on a lease for a new business, to a new Volvo dealership in 2008… Global Financial Crisis, new business and a sick child,” Lachie’s Dad, Rob said.
“We had a fair bit on our plates.”
However his parents say he’s pushed through everything been thrown at him with aplomb, and Lachie says his positive attitude has been the best way he’s moved forward.
“It took a while for me to get my head around it all, and to this day I find it hard to talk about,” Lachie said.
“We have been brought up to believe that only bad things only happen to bad people and you hear stories on the news and have relatives that have faced life threatening challenges but you never in your own mind believe that one day that person could be you and it’s a real eye opener.
“There were times early on when I would ask myself: ‘Am I going to die?’
“I felt that would only worsen the matter and I identified that my weakness was my mental toughness.
“It was bringing me down more than the cancer was so I decided that from then on I only think positive and try and live the most normal life I could possible.”
December to January this year is the five-year post treatment mark where he will be full remission from his Leukemia. With his 100 games under his belt and the final two years of high school coming up, there’s plenty for Lachie and his family to celebrate.
However Lachie gave this bit of advice to any young players wanting to bounce back from any illness, setback or are just having a hard time:
“The key is to be positive. In regards to coming back from your downfall, there’s nothing worse than selling yourself short,” Lachie said.
“Don’t let people tell you that: ‘It’s OK we understand why your not playing well, you have been out of the game a while, you don’t have give it your all’.
“The thing that drove me to keep playing as soon as possible was to make people believe that nothing was wrong, I was normal and I didn’t need the sympathy label on my shoulder.
“To anyone who has been touched by something that has set them back from what they love doing I hope this gave you strength and hope.”