Reality TV Couple Loses Daughter to Rare Disease, Shares Surprising Warning Sign of Her Illness

A persistent bruise turned out to be an early indicator of a rare cancer for the daughter of Australian reality TV stars

Carly Saunders and Tresne Middleton became reality TV breakouts in Australia after their appearance on the competitive cooking show, My Kitchen Rules. But it was their eight-year long IVF journey — which they documented on their Instagram page — which made them beloved stars Down Under.

The twosome finally welcomed a daughter, Poppy Grace, on June 2, 2021. But shortly after her birth, Poppy was diagnosed with infantile acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which the Mayo Clinic describes as “cancer of the blood and bone marrow — the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are made.”

After a long battle, Poppy died this past February, just four months shy of her second birthday.

Now, the couple is speaking out about the early warning signs of this rare illness.

“We noticed her belly was starting to get enlarged. So, it was a little bit distended. And when she was feeding, she would have quite large vomits,” Middleton told Australian news site 7news.

But as the couple tells the site, it was a persistent bruise on Poppy’s thigh that was the real warning sign.

“With leukemia, if they’re pale, if they’ve got bruises or excessive bleeding — they are generally signs that the leukemia is affecting their marrow which therefore affects their blood,” Saunders said.

Poppy’s bruise didn’t fade for five weeks.

“Looking back, we think, how did we not notice she was so pale, but because it happened so gradually, we had no idea,” Saunders said.

Poppy was just 11 weeks old when she was diagnosed with leukemia. “We’d been trying since 2012 to have a baby and then she was our little miracle,” Saunders told 7news. “We thought we were going to lose her that night. Every day was a battle.”

She added, “We didn’t really believe it at first because it’d been such a long journey to even have Poppy.”

Poppy needed a bone marrow transplant, which she received before her first birthday. But two days afterwards, Poppy took a turn for the worse, with doctors giving her parents the dire news.

“Doctors said to spend as much time with her as you can,” Middleton recalled.

Pharmaceutical trials gave them an extra eight months, during which Middleton says, “Poppy really came into her own during that time, like we saw her personality, we got to see just what a little shining star she was.”

However, an undisclosed “traumatic” health event in February led to Poppy’s death on February 16.

Blood donations made in Poppy’s honor have surged, as the parents noted: “It’s unbelievable how much cancer kids, and cancer patients in general, need blood. There’s a huge shortage of blood at the moment.”
Donations made in Poppy’s name, according to Middleton and Saunders, have helped save 4000 lives.

“We know how important it was to Poppy and to all her little friends who still need blood.”

The couple are continuing their campaign to encourage blood donations in Poppy’s name, as well as alerting parents to the early warning signs of leukemia.

For Poppy, “it was pale skin due to her low [hemoglobin] (red blood cells), large vomits (due to her enlarged spleen) and a persistent bruise that stayed on her leg for weeks (due to low platelets),” they wrote on their Facebook and Instagram, and also urged parents to watch out for headaches or joint pain, fevers, and swollen lymph nodes, among other symptoms.