Olivia, an 18-year-old from Bonnet Bay, NSW has been named the winner of the Redkite and Coles Dare to Dream Scholarship.
“When I found out that I was the winner of the Coles Dare to Dream Scholarship, I was speechless. Of course, I hoped to receive the scholarship, but I never expected to actually get it. So, when I did, and was the national winner, I felt very lucky and grateful.”
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.
Olivia had just returned from the summer holidays and was in her second term of year 12. As a dedicated student who loved learning and socialising, when she was diagnosed, Olivia found it hard accept she wouldn’t be able to return to school for the year and would miss out on the year 12 experience.
Olivia started noticing symptoms in her stomach, sharp but dull aches in her liver area. The pains were persistent and got worse over the coming days. Becoming more tired, she was napping throughout the day, and I was going to sleep much earlier in the evening. Olivia had aching bones, and her back, hips and knees became progressively sore. More symptoms followed. Night sweats and a lymph node on my neck popped up on Olivia’s neck, along with high temperatures. She thought it may be glandular fever.
“I was in my local hospital when the paediatrician came into my little space in the emergency room and told me I probably have leukaemia . I just cried as it wasn’t expected at all. I was convinced I would be sent home because I just had Covid or glandular fever or something. But no, it was cancer, and it was overwhelming.”
Olivia was officially diagnosed shortly after, and quickly began a course of chemotherapy to get on top of the disease.
“The first year of treatment however was very difficult. As many of the kids find, the chemo is hard, but all the resulting illness is worse. More than once, I was very ill and in need of a high level of care, without which, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Winning the Dare to Dream scholarship, provided Olivia with a new path for her future. Her story is one of courage and along with the of support from Redkite and the Coles Dare to Dream scholarship, Olivia will put the $5000 towards her studies in paediatric nursing and aims to specialise in paediatric treatment to provide therapeutic support to other children.
“I didn’t always want to become a nurse. I thought I would go into a science degree when I went to university. However, being around all of the nurses on the ward who provided me and my friend’s care. It was inspirational and I hope to make the same difference in other kids’ lives as they did mine. I think that this scholarship holds so much significance because of the fact that having to face a life-threatening condition as a child or teenager puts into perspective what you really value. For me, I realised I needed to become a nurse to help others as I was helped. With the help of this scholarship, the kids impacted by cancer can start to live and achieve what matters to them, without the financial barrier that many face.”
“While my diagnosis has taken so much away, it has given me so much more. One day I will be that nurse who made my friends and I have some of our happiest days in such dark times. I hope to work in paediatric oncology or paediatric palliative care. I feel really drawn to making a real difference in those kids’ lives as well as their families. I really hope that I can bring smiles to the faces of the families I am involved with and that I can help guide them through really challenging times. I can offer something special. Something that can’t be learnt in a lecture theatre, or even clinical placement, but something that’s been learned through a lived experience.”
Olivia is in remission and doing well.
“Having received the scholarship, it has allowed me to focus on my health and nursing degree without having to worry about the financial aspect. Instead of having to pick up a second job to pay for university expenses, I can focus on enjoying my passion while keeping healthy.”
“My treatment is still continuing up until February next year, however it is much easier now. The first year of treatment however was very difficult. As many of the kids find, the chemo is hard, but all the resulting illness is worse. More than once, I was very ill and in need of a high level of care, without which, I wouldn’t be here today.”
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.