National Bandana Day: Hannah's story

Each year in Australia about 18,000, 12-24 year-olds are confronted with a cancer diagnosis. CanTeen is the only National charity dedicated to helping young people fight cancer, no matter what their cancer experience. Today is National Bandana Day to help raise awareness and funds for youth living with cancer.

CanTeen provides free support to young people living with cancer in various ways including running peer support programs, resource books, a counselling service for young people who have a parent with cancer, or if their parent has died from cancer, as well as establishing youth cancer centres and services in hospitals so that young people can get age-appropriate access to treatment and facilities. National Bandanna Day is vital in raising funds to continue to provide free services to help young people fight back against cancer.

When I was approached by CanTeen to write a blog post to help spread the message I was delighted to support such a worthy cause. Cancer is sadly, very well known here in Australia and I have had several friends pass away from this disease. Today I wanted to share with you a personal story from a gorgeous, young girl who has experienced the challenges and pain that living with Cancer brings. Let me introduce you to Hannah and please read what she has to share with us:

"In late January of 2006, after a few months of intense ‘growing pains’, I was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma. The tumor had eaten through my femur and was making its way down into my ankle. I started intense chemotherapy a few days after I was discharged from hospital and took the first step in the 12-month journey that dragged everyone around me to hell and back. 

I was on a 21-day cycle, 5 of those days spent in hospital on chemo, the rest, throwing up into every possible inconvenient place I could find! I was constantly in and out of hospital for transfusions, tests, appointments, or the free cocktails (commonly known as good ol’ chemo). 

Things got pretty hard for me, at the age of 9, life wasn’t supposed to be a struggle. I was angry at everything and I fought with everyone. I scratched, bit, screamed, and thrashed, anything to avoid the poking and prodding for even a minute. 

On May 31st, I had my first prosthesis put in. They removed my femur to my knee and concreted it into the knee joint and removed up to the joint in my hip. It took them a while to get me under, Mum going down three times before me (not on purpose of course!!). 

Chemo went down to 2 days. And I seemed to be getting better with the whole bashing people up thing. I had a few nurses that were just amazing and I felt like I could trust them with things like accessing my port and all of that. So it got easier. 

And on the 22nd of December, I finished!! Right in time for Christmas! I came home to signs all over the house and balloons and a lovely dinner. I had my family, my life, and food (of course). What else could I have possibly asked for! 

I recovered fast and went away with my family for the trip of a lifetime! We had 6 weeks in New Zealand in a campervan. My hair was growing back, and I even went out a few days without a hat. It was the best way to begin the New Year. 

When I got back though, I suffered a huge blow. Three of my best friends from when I was in hospital had died. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I had lived, and they hadn’t. I lost most of my friends from when I was in hospital and each time, I couldn’t bare the thought of their families being so distraught. The thought that I had lived so much more than they had, and yet I was the one still alive cut me to pieces. 

When I was in hospital for a check up, mum picked up a CanTeen brochure. And I decided to join. It was, without a doubt, the best decision I have ever made in my life. The people I have met are the most incredible and influential I think I will ever meet. I literally have no words to describe how purely, brilliantly, terrific they are. They are my Earth Angels. 

I know that everyone suffers throughout the journey, and it isn’t just the patient, oh do I know! But it does, somewhat determine who we become. Although everyone says it shouldn’t, it changes A LOT about us, and we have no choice but to just go with it. 

It means so much to have the time to do those things that have become normal. The other cancer patients I’ve met at CanTeen  are amazing ,we all have this incredible bond that stretches beyond explanation. We just have these instant connections. We can go months without talking and seeing each other, but as soon as you see each other again it’s a massive slow-mo’ run/ hug/ jump/ fall/ tackle thing that brings tears and goose bumps every single time. We’re a family. We’re best friends. We’re each other’s angels. That’s the only way I can describe it."

I love how Hannah shares that CanTeen gives young people the chance to develop strong relationships and helps them to extend the support network around them as they face Cancer. If you want to support National Bandana Day pick yourself up a cool bandana at a local Woolworths, Woolworths Petrol, Wendys, Super Cheap Auto, BCF, Amart or Rebel Sport.

CanTeen also has recently created a great iPhone and iPad app named Bandanna Art. The world-first app allows mums and kids to design a 100% customised bandanna that is then delivered to their door, with all proceeds going to CanTeen. Very cool!

My heart goes out to families who are dealing with the challenge of living with Cancer in their lives every single day. I admire their strength in fighting this disease and how they keep such a positive attitude and keep moving forward each day. If you are able to support this wonderful cause please take the time today to donate or pick up a Bandana. Our family will be rocking our bandana's and thinking of those young people who are so strong and fighting for the will to live.

{Disclaimer: I was not paid any money to write this blog post. I am sharing it because I love to support great charity organisations and believe this is an important message}