Rachel, a remarkable 18-year-old from Southern River, in Western Australia has been named one of the eight finalists for the Redkite and Coles Dare to Dream Scholarship.
The Redkite and Coles Dare to Dream Scholarship was established 10 years ago, to inspire young people whose physical or mental health has been affected by cancer and to achieve their goals and ambitions. This scholarship, funded by Coles, helps young people build their future and can be put towards education or life goals.
“It is such an honour to be chosen as a finalist. I put a lot of dedication into my application. I was so happy when I got chosen as one of the finalists.”
Rachel was 12 years old, excelling academically and enjoying a fulfilling life, when her world suddenly changed during a family holiday in Malaysia. Experiencing dizziness, double vision, Rachel was taken to the emergency after intense and consistent vomiting. After an emergency CT scan, she was diagnosed with Ependymoma PFA, an uncommon and aggressive brain tumour. The diagnosis came as a shock to her family, and Rachel underwent surgery to remove the tumour.
“I actually didn’t know it was cancer until after the surgery. A few days after surgery, while I was recovering, someone let it slip that this tumour is actually a cancer and it was just the beginning of this whole journey.”
After the initial surgery, Rachel embarked on a treatment which included 33 sessions of focal radiation at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth. The road to recovery, however, was far from straightforward.
“It was tough after surgery. I couldn’t walk for a few weeks. I had to relearn how to walk. I remember spending a lot of time with my dad in the hospital room. He helped me brush my teeth, brush my hair and things like that. I had to endure a lot after the surgery. I felt a lot of confusion about everything going on around me, I wasn’t strong at that time. It was over time that I learned to be strong.”
Rachel experienced relapses in 2019 and 2021, leading to additional surgeries, clinical trials, and various forms of radiation.
“My type of Ependymoma, there’s even subsections of that type, and mine is the worst of the worst. It’s the type that’s more likely to come back.”
Rachel discovered her passion for handmade jewellery and accessories. She founded Rach&Bec, a business which allows her to express her creativity and provide inspiration to others.
“I sell handmade jewellery and custom/handmade hair accessories like scrunchies and headbands. When Rach&Bec branched out to jewellery, I watched YouTube tutorials and learnt how to make earrings, necklaces etc, and I discovered that I actually liked making something with my hands. So it has developed as kind of my hobby and passion.
“When I’m making my jewellery, I become completely immersed and I feel so happy when I’ve made something that I set out to make, and it turns out quite beautiful.”
The Dare to Dream scholarship has allowed Rachel to invest in equipment, displays, and supplies for Rach&Bec contributing to the success of her business.
“Rach&Bec was already up and running. We were doing markets, we were holding stalls at markets around Perth, like artisan markets, farmers markets, and so it was really fun doing all those things. I felt like it was an opportunity to use it for my business. It has saved us a lot of money to purchase those things ourselves and I’m very grateful.”
Rachel’s dad learned about Redkite and was able to access financial assistance. ”The Coles vouchers really helped my family. We put them towards groceries. We are incredibly grateful. I’d just like to really thank people for donating to Redkite and I just like to let them know that they did not donate in vain, that I’m still thriving.”
Demonstrating incredible strength and resilience, Rachel faces her challenges head-on with the support of her family and medical professionals. She is managing her current tumours with a combination of chemotherapy, and other medications. Despite the physical toll of her treatments has on her, Rachel remains optimistic about the future.
“I would like everyone to know that they should never give up. Find that inspiring thing, find that motivation to keep on pursuing so that you don’t lose that zest in your life.”
Rach&Bec can be found on Facebook, Instagram and Rach&bec
Since 2013, Redkite and Coles have awarded 336 Dare to Dream Scholarships worth over $700,000 to support young Australians whose aspirations and goals have been impacted by their cancer diagnosis.