Tahlia, a 19-year-old, born and bred in Gatton, in the Lockyer Valley, 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.
“Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever felt happier. I was so shocked, and honestly, so, so grateful. It was such a relief, such weight off my shoulders. It was amazing.”
Academically excelling at school, playing netball, swimming, and running, Tahlia was enjoying life with her family.
“I love spending time with my family. My family are so important to me. We always go on these little adventures. I’ve always been one to find an adventure in something. Growing up, I had so much spirit.”
Prior to being diagnosed, Tahlia had a persistent cough and would get temperatures, fevers, lethargy and was losing weight really quickly. She was misdiagnosed with asthma for three years, when finally, a bronchoscopy biopsy revealed a diagnosis of atypical carcinoid lung cancer. Tahlia had two thirds of her right lung removed, two out of the three lobes in the right lung (lower and middle), along with a tumour. A few months after being in remission Tahlia’s cancer came back and she had to have a second surgery at the end of 2020 and was in hospital for over a month.
“For a long time, I was just so shocked. Why me? It was one of those things where you don’t often find a 16-year-old girl with lung cancer. Whenever I would tell people, they’d be very shocked.”
“I think because I’ve always been so passionate about medicine and the medical field, I tried to make the positive situation out of my whole journey, and just made it as a learning experience.”
Despite the challenges, Tahlia approached her experience with a positive mindset.
“I’ve always been a positive person. I love to always be able to see the brighter side of things and look for that silver lining. My coping mechanism was just knowing that I have so much of my future ahead of me. Then if I can just get through that small hurdle that, things will work out okay. I have so many passions and dreams, so that was just something to look forward to once I was better.”
Tahlia’s family played a crucial role in her cancer experience.
“I think we’ve always been a very close family, so we just stuck together the whole time. We bounced off each other’s positivity, that helped me through so much, and it helped them through as well.”
Tahlia was given the Red Bag by Redkite, and her family was able to access financial assistance in the form of Coles vouchers which they used for groceries.
“The financial support Redkite provided took a bit of weight off our shoulders, because trying to deal with cancer and the financial burden, it all gets a lot sometimes. So, to have that support, just helps balance the load of life. It was a great help for us.”
“A few times I’d see the Red Bag and thought, ‘Oh, I’ve got that bag, too.’ You have that connection. You don’t necessarily say anything or do anything, but it’s just that acknowledgement between two families that, you do know what each other are going through. I hadn’t had a nice hot chocolate in so long, and dad went and made me one with the sachet, and it was so good! It actually made me feel really happy.”
Being a finalist in the Dare to Dream scholarship, provides hope for Tahlia. “It means that I’ve been able to focus on my studies in the backend of this semester. That I’m able to focus on my final exams, and that sort of thing. I’ve had that financial stress eased from me. To those considering applying for the Dare to Dream scholarship do what you’re passionate about. If you stay persistent, stay positive, and be passionate, you’ll get so far in life.”
Tahlia’s story is one of triumph over adversity, and the importance of support from Redkite and the Coles Dare to Dream scholarship.
“I want to say the biggest thank you. I can’t even express with words how grateful I am. So, thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I’m sure my family as well, have the biggest gratitude towards Coles.”
Tahlia has been in remission for a few years and has yearly checkups, which involves an MRI, blood tests and a check-in with the oncologist.
“I am so relieved. I feel so happy. I’m living and loving absolutely every moment of my life now, so I’m really, really grateful.”
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.