Nicole Verrocchi is a busy mum of 2 to Rafael (Raffi, 5) and Florence (Flossy, 3) while also celebrating her newest arrival, Bambi Mini Co - the snuggliest GOTS certified organic cotton babywear in fun, bright limited-edition designs.
While Bambi Mini Co is playful and adventurous - life for the Verrocchi’s has been anything but, as they battled together through Rafael’s life-changing cancer diagnosis, of which they recently were able to celebrate the end of his cancer treatment.
To say life has been a roller-coaster would be an understatement, but its a fighting spirit and family togetherness that has kept this tight unit stuck together like glue through thick and thin.
“Our resilient Raffi is wise beyond his years, very cautious and doesn’t like to break the rules. He loves math, Lego, soccer and footy. He’s a super loving and kind Pisces who loves his friends and family, but can take a little while to warm up to new faces,” Nicole says, describing her little fighter, Rafael.
“Raffi has been through a lot, and he has also witnessed a lot on the wards and in the hospital – His experience will always be a part of him, but he takes away the power of knowledge, resilience, strength and empathy,” she says.
“Flossy is our little cheeky, vivacious Capricorn - super social and happy to talk to anyone that will listen! She is very loving and caring, loves babies and singing. [She] has always looked out for her big brother and keeps him on his toes, especially through the difficult times during treatment.,” she says of Rafael’s little sister Florence.
Right from the get-go, Rafael knew how to make his mark on the world, with Nicole’s waters breaking a weekend before his due date - after a big plate of chilli pasta at Cecconi’s.
“The birth of Raffi wasn’t as straightforward as I thought it would be…after 10 hours of contractions I opted for an epidural. I was then prescribed some oxytocin to help with the contractions as I was only 2cm dilated, however, Raffi did not like that at all – he became quite distressed and his heart rate slowed so our Obstetrician – an absolute legend of a man, Dr Len Kliman took me in for an emergency C – everything from there on in was smooth sailing and our beautiful firstborn entered the world!”
Florence was born via elective c-section and Nicole was supported by Midwife Cath post-partum with both babies.
“We were introduced to Midwife Cath through our obstetrician and she was amazing. We felt so supported by her and our obstetricians office, the whole experience in the hospital was fantastic as well. If you have the right network and support around you, it makes a hell of a difference!”
This experience extended to Nicole’s feeding journey’s too, finding her groove more easily the second time-around with Florence.
“I found first-time breastfeeding a little tricky to begin with. Although Raffi took to it quite well at the start, he had his moments and there was so much to learn, I found it especially hard getting comfortable with breastfeeding in public or around family and friends. It certainly felt more natural the second time around with Flossy,” she says.
“Both my babies were introduced to formula very early on. I predominantly breastfed, however, I found formula top ups really beneficial, and it certainly helped around the 10pm feed, as Matty could step in to help and I could go to bed a little earlier,” Nicole says of her mix-feeding journey.
Now both Rafael & Florence are happy and thriving, with Rafael achieving an incredible milestone recently - ringing the Celebration Bell at the end of his cancer treatment at The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) in Melbourne after being diagnosed on December 11, 2020 with B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.
Soon after this devastating diagnosis, Rafael quickly began his first round of treatment at the RCH where he spent about four out of six weeks in the Kookaburra Cancer Care Ward.
“Raffi lost his ability to walk, experienced countless hospitalisations and midnight runs into Emergency. He endured the complications associated with an infected port, navigated two anaphylactic reactions and most noticeably, lost his iconic long locks.
“Despite all the challenges, The Royal Children Hospital provided an environment that allows children like Raffi to face every hurdle with a smile and make the experience as fun and enjoyable as possible,” says Nicole of their harrowing experience.
Rafael is now cancer-free, and will continue to have monthly check-ups and then yearly check-ups well into his teens.
“Raffi is doing incredibly well right now! He turned 5 on the eve of ending his treatment and stopped all of his chemotherapy. His energy is back, as well as his immune system, he is just so much happier and it's great to see him doing all the things little kids are meant to be enjoying at his age,” says Nicole.
From diagnosis to final treatment, it’s been an intensely emotional and exhausting journey, one that has a profound impact and leaves its fingerprints on a family forever.
“It's been an emotional roller-coaster, however, we are now on a new journey, an exciting journey of wellness and living life to the fullest. Raffi’s journey has given us the gift of perspective and the strength to face any of life’s obstacles,” says Nicole.
“Raffi’s diagnosis absolutely broke our hearts and turned our world upside down. In the depths of our pain we learned to appreciate the value of every moment - to stay strong, stay positive and make it as enjoyable for him as we could whilst he completed treatment at the Royal Children’s Hospital!"
Throughout the stress and pain of the last few years, Nicole was able to find joy in the creation of Bambi Mini Co - something she had always wanted to do and something that felt right after noticing a gap in the market.
“I started Bambi Mini Co a few months before Raffi was diagnosed, so it definitely took a back-seat. Once we finished the hardest of Raffi’s chemotherapy treatment, I had a little more time to devote to the brand – even though it was still at a slow pace, it also acted as a little distraction from the stress when I had some time to reflect and get creative,” she explains.
In a beautiful, serendipitous full-circle moment, Bambi Mini Co now enables the Verrocchi’s to give back to the hospital that gave them so much.
“Giving back to charity was always part of the plan for Bambi Mini, I wasn’t sure in what capacity, but after Raffi was diagnosed, we started personally fundraising for the Good Friday Appeal (the RCH fundraiser) and we just knew we wanted to continue to do so in a bigger way and make a bigger impact,” she says.
This year, you can support the RCH Good Friday Appeal by purchasing a pair of Bambi Mini Co. x Good Friday Appeal organic cotton socks from Chemist Warehouse stores across Victoria and online at https://bambiminico.com.au. Rafael was both the inspiration and the creative lead on the designs, as the team worked with Australian illustrator and artist Brook Gossen to take inspiration from some of Rafael’s favourite things, including avocados and hearts.
To donate to the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal and help kids like Rafael, visit https://www.goodfridayappeal.com.au/
Bambi Mini Co is available exclusively at Chemist Warehouse stores nationally.