Her smiling face is lighting up Woolworths cash registers across the Coast and there is a very good reason Havana from Wurtulla is sharing her story.
The five-year-old is the Sunshine Coast’s ambassador for the 2018 Woolworths Wall Token appeal which raises significant funds for Wishlist, through the Children’s Hospital Foundation.
Havana was suffering from a limp which was mistaken for restless leg syndrome, despite multiple tests and x-rays. When doctors at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital did a full body MRI in the hope of finally finding answers, what they discovered was absolutely devastating.
Havana, a happy and energetic little girl, had a tumour mass in her stomach.
Havana’s mum Natasha recalled the day she finally got answers for what was causing her little girl so much pain.
“Havana had not even woken from the anaesthetic of the MRI when the doctors took me to a room alone to tell me this news,” Natasha said.
“I told them they were wrong and they had no idea what they were on about. How could a happy, playful child have something so bad wrong with her?
“I was honestly gobsmacked.”
Natasha asked her partner to bring the other children up to the hospital, including Natasha’s siblings who live with her.
“We sat outside the hospital and I told the kids what was wrong with their sibling and niece, and reassured them that everything was going to be fine.”
The next day, Havana was on her way to the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital – about 100km away from their family home on the Sunshine Coast. Their family was separated, and little Havana was about to take on the fight of her life, for her life.
“The doctors told me the tumour was in her pelvic floor but was creeping around into her spinal cords,” Natasha explained.
“I told the kids it was going to be OK, not knowing that our whole world had changed and would be turned upside down for the next 12 months – we would be living apart, and there was also the unknown of what was actually going to happen to Havana.”
For the past year, Havana has endured chemotherapy, which started from the first day she arrived at Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital.
“Havana was put on chemotherapy straight away and we were told about all the chemotherapy that she would be receiving. There was so much information to take in at this time.
“Doctors were not sure what type of cancer they were dealing with. After taking a good biopsy they were able to work out it was Ewing’s sarcoma.”
Havana has missed her brother and nieces, and they have struggled without their family being together. The side effects of chemotherapy have affected Havana’s potassium levels and her ability to gain weight.
“Havana’s had hard moments and losing her hair was one of them,” Natasha said. “She wouldn’t ever let me take photos of her and she wouldn’t smile. Havana gives me attitude when she doesn’t want to take medicines or doesn’t want to try to eat and that is when I know Havana is saying she’s had enough. But, she keeps fighting even though she has bad days.”
For close to a year, the hospital has been Havana’s second home. Her mum said programs run by the Children’s Hospital Foundation – especially bedside play and music therapy – have helped Havana during her treatment. “The bedside play volunteers play regularly with Havana and she enjoys their company a lot. This has helped her get through her long hospital stays.”
Your generous donations to the Woolworths Regional Wall Tokens Campaign helps fund programs in your local hospital, and at Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, which help families like Havana’s through an emotional, stressful, and at times uncertain journey.
Donate today by buying a $2 token at your local Woolworths store.