Kids cancer is 24/7. Give $24 today to help a family through the next 24 hours... donate now
Your browser is not supported by this website, please consider browsing the site in a modern browser.

Real Stories

Tara: ‘I won’t let this stop me’

“My diagnosis hasn’t just affected me – it’s also had an extreme impact on my family.”

Tara is not going to let get cancer get in the way of her dream of one day becoming an actor. Diagnosed with sarcoma at 17-years-old, she was responding well to treatment, but in July 2020 her cancer had relapsed and spread to her lungs. She isn’t letting cancer stop her from completing her Year 12 exams.

My doctor’s appointment was on 15 November, 2019. That’s when I heard the words that changed my life.

~ Tara

I remember the first signs of my cancer as clear as anything.

It was in February 2019, that I had just finished watching a play and went back to the hotel to type some of my favourite things about it so I wouldn’t forget anything to tell my drama teacher about.

However, as I was typing my hand wasn’t moving as quick as my mind and then my hand began to get stuck in an almost claw-like shape. Over time, the pain and the claw-like shape increased. After doctors’ appointments, I got told I had tendinitis and got sent to physio.

I continued to go to physio, but it only got worse. When I was in Year 11, I took a break from physio in order to get through my exams with the least pain possible. After my exams, one of my aunties who is a nurse saw my hand and suggested we go back and get more tests.

After many tests and a referral to a hand specialist something was finally happening. The hand specialist believed that the issue wasn’t my hand but rather in my elbow and the tests proved that there was a mass there.

The entire time I never believed it to be cancer even when I was referred to Lifehouse and was told that I was to go into surgery the very next week. I never processed it.

In fact, I told my doctors that I had to go perform that day, so I asked them if it was okay if I go. Things started to turn during the surgery when it took longer than expected and it twisted around the nerve and they couldn’t take it all out.

My doctor’s appointment was on 15 November, 2019. That’s when I heard the words that changed my life. I was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer called epithelioid sarcoma in my right elbow and I was to undergo radiation as treatment.

“It’s unclear of when I’m set to finish treatment or what further treatment is going to entail. No matter what, with the help and love from my family and friends, I know I’ll keep going and won’t let this stop me.”

~ Tara

Treatment didn’t start until the start of December as I had to recover from the surgery. Radiation went for 6 weeks every day except on the weekends and public holidays. In March, I got the all clear that radiation was a success and things were looking good from there for my final year of school.

COVID-19, however, was a growing threat and only a couple days later we went into lockdown. When lockdown finally ended and I got to go back to school in June, I had four days of normalcy before my lung collapsed.

As soon as they told me this, I knew it had to be related to cancer, so we moved my 6 months scans a week ahead and did them then and there. After I was released from hospital after being on oxygen all night, we got a call from my doctors asking us to come in and do another CT scan.

Once again, I was back in that room seeing the look on the doctors’ faces that comes before the sharing of dreaded news. The cancer had spread and this time it was in my lungs.

We decided to push back chemo so I could sit my trial HSC exams and complete my drama HSC performance without it being affected by chemo.

I only managed to complete 4 of my trial exams before I went to the hospital after my maths exam to find out that my lung had collapsed for a second time.

This time round I had to go into surgery where they completed a pleurodesis, placed a drain in and took out some of the sarcoma. This surgery was a lot more intense then my last one and required a longer recovery period at home.

It wasn’t until weeks later that I went back to the doctors to be told the lung had healed again and then the next day that I was to start chemotherapy next week. So off I went back to the hospital on Monday morning for an early start for chemo and stayed in until Thursday.

Luckily after weeks off of school and not having been back since the exams I got the all clear from my doctors to go and enjoy my last two weeks of school before another round of chemo.

Whilst writing this, I only have three days left of high school and I am planning on completing the rest of my HSC exams.  

It’s unclear of when I’m set to finish treatment or what further treatment is going to entail. No matter what, with the help and love from my family and friends, I know I’ll keep going and won’t let this stop me.

Redkite first reached out to my family and I when I started radiation by giving me the support bag for young people. I remember being so excited as it felt like someone was looking out for me and it was a great way to cheer me up and feel special. I was also especially excited about getting home to open it up and see what was inside. I was really excited about the Keep Cup in it.

Redkite maintained support throughout treatment with more things like this for, not just me, but my family as well. My diagnosis hasn’t just affected me; it’s also had an extreme impact on my family.

During the lockdown, I saw how Redkite was there to help my parents.

Redkite organised online parent support groups for both mums and dads. I got to see first-hand how they helped my parents.

They seemed to feel comfort that they weren’t alone in trying to find their way parenting a child with cancer as I doubt that it’s something in any parenting book.

My mum has especially found solace in these calls as she has been one of the strongest rocks for me, but through Redkite, she has been able to have someone help her and listen to her.

At the moment I’m still just trying to take each day as it comes as I’ve found that’s what has been one of my go to methods when everything becomes so full on and hard to do. Things at the moment are still rough as I am yet to see any end of treatment and to have clarification of what’s next.

I am lucky to have some plans for after school, having gotten into multiple early entry programs at university to try and follow my passion of drama.

Tara’s family: Annika (sister), Tara, Melissa (mother), Matt (father).

Whenever anything has felt overwhelming, I have used drama as an escape as it has allowed me to focus on other characters and their issues in the lives instead of always having to focus on what’s going on in mine.

I have had struggles with finding out who my true friends are, but I am extremely grateful for the friends who have stuck around and for the friends that I have made along the way.

Also one of the biggest struggles of being a young person with cancer is that when you’re in hospital you don’t always see people your age.

I’m here to tell you that you aren’t alone and that Redkite can help in finding others who are going through similar things.

My main advice to any other kids with cancer is that your saving grace will be your loved ones and it’s okay to lean on them for support.

During her cancer journey, Tara noticed how Redkite’s Connect Groups helped her parents find comfort in that they weren’t alone in trying to find their way in parenting a child with cancer.

You can learn more about, or join, Redkite’s Connect Groups.

Connect Groups

Share this story

Would you like to share your story? Redkite celebrates the diversity of personal experiences and stories. The stories shared on our website include opinions that may not necessarily represent Redkite’s views.

Mum leans over daughter, who has cancer, on a hospital bed.

On treatment
17th Nov

Noelle and Scout: ‘It was just like a grenade went off in your life.’

“Nothing is normal, nothing is comforting, nothing is regular. Everything is irregular.”

Noelle and Scout: ‘It was just like a grenade went off in your life.’

“Nothing is normal, nothing is comforting, nothing is regular. Everything is irregular.”

Diagnosis
28th Sep

Bella and Ritchie: Caring for a child with cancer and Down Syndrome

“When she got the diagnosis I was thinking: ‘How the hell could this be happening? She has got enough on her plate’.”

Bella and Ritchie: Caring for a child with cancer and Down Syndrome

“When she got the diagnosis I was thinking: ‘How the hell could this be happening? She has got enough on her plate’.”