BIG READ: Kids kicking it to cancer
ISABELLA Harry and Zachary Wagner are total strangers but they are bound together by their incredible will to live.
Thirteen-year-old Sunshine Coast lass Bella and one-year-old Brisbane boy Zac have spent the past year fighting for their lives behind the colourful walls of Lady Cilento Children's Hospital.
Bella is undergoing intensive chemotherapy for the bone cancer that has already destroyed her right femur and will likely take her hip and shoulder bones.
Diagnosed with osteosarcoma at the start of last year, the St John's College student spent her first day of high school undergoing intensive chemotherapy and radiation.
After months of treatment and an operation to replace her femur with a titanium rod, she and her family hoped she would get the all clear and return to normal life.
Sadly, the cancer was not beaten and Bella returned to Lady Cilento for more life-saving treatment towards the end of last year.
Young Zac, who stays just a few wards away from where Bella spends her days, has been in hospital since he was born.
The happy-go-lucky toddler came into the world in the worst possible way.
A hole in his tiny diaphragm meant his liver moved into his chest where it squashed his under-developed lungs.
Zac has had 15 operations since being born by caesarean section last March. He had just a 50% chance of living when he entered the world.
Unlike Zac, Bella has earned herself an Easter pass, which means she gets to spend this long weekend being a normal child, hanging with her friends and family and soaking up all the treasures the four-day holiday brings.
"I'm so happy to be home for Easter and my mum and aunty's birthday - they are twins turning 40," Bella said on Thursday.
"I'm looking forward to seeing my friends, hanging with my brothers and shopping.
"We always have an Easter egg hunt Sunday morning too, which is fun.
"I love sleeping in my own bed too." Speaking about her vivacious youngster's treatment, Bella's mum Emma revealed her only daughter had a tough road ahead.
"There is no end date now," Emma said of Bella, who dyes her hair different colours - for example hot pink or vibrant blue - to help deal with the toll chemotherapy takes on her body.
"She'll keep having chemo and then they'll scan her and look at replacing her hip and her shoulder.
"She'll be like Bionic Girl." Emma said Bella's ability to just keep pushing through the pain was amazing.
"Today, she's gone to watch her brother try out for the Sunshine Coast (junior) AFL team," Emma said.
"She's not well but she's sitting there in her wheelchair supporting him from the sidelines.
"She still likes to get out as much as she can - she's in really good spirits."
Coming home for Easter was no easy feat for Bella, who begged her medical team to release her from Lady Cilento.
The downside of her short burst of freedom - having to attend a nearby hospital for vital ongoing tests.
"We're just very, very lucky to have her home for this weekend," Emma said.
"Even now it's a day-to-day thing - we could go to hospital this afternoon and she might not be allowed out." Bella will spend Sunday hunting for Easter eggs with little brothers Angus and Lewis, dad Shae and her mum.
Zac, on the other hand, will be getting a bedside visit from a certain giant white fluffy critter with long ears and a cotton-ball tail.
Zac's mum Amanda, dad Rob and little sister Nicola marked two major milestones in the lad's life this week - his first birthday and Easter.
Amanda was 19 weeks into her pregnancy, when she and her husband learned the devastating news that their baby had congenital diaphragmatic hernia.
The condition affects one in 2500 children.
Doctors initially gave Zac a 10% chance of survival, but that increased to 50% as the pregnancy moved forward.
It's the kind of news no parent is prepared to hear, but Amanda and Rob did their best to accept it and prepare for the hard days ahead.
"It was a bit surreal - we were a bit removed from it," Rob said.
"Amanda was shell-shocked, numb almost." Amanda said the hardest part was coming to terms with the fact that her baby was safer in her womb than outside of it.
"I definitely wanted to keep him inside of me," she said.
"Especially in the last two weeks - I was in tears, saying 'I don't want him to come out'.
"I was scared because him coming out meant we could lose him straight away."
Zac came into the world a fighter, needing every bit of strength his fragile body could muster to survive the ongoing operations and being hooked up to myriad lifesaving devices, with their countless cords and tubes.
"I got to touch his foot and then he was taken away," Amanda said.
"He didn't make a sound. Three months later the family was able to cuddle their son and brother for the first time.
"Now, we hold him all the time," Amanda said. He is still on a ventilator and has a feeding tube but it should not be long before these are removed and he finally gets to sleep in his own bed.
Until then, Zac's family and the nurses and doctors who care for him are determined to make every day in hospital fun and different.
"He's a cheeky, happy boy," Amanda said.
"Despite everything he's been through he is a happy little boy.
"He's been the light who lifts the spirit of nurses who are having bad day.
"That's nice to hear that he does that for others."
On Sunday, the Children's Hospital Foundation will ensure Zac's Easter is memorable when some of its dedicated volunteers pop by to deliver loads of chocolate eggs and other goodies.
As it does with all Lady Cilento patients, the foundation has provided vital support for Zac, Bella and their families over the past 12 months.
To keep helping sick children from across Queensland and northern NSW, the foundation wants everyone to buy an Easter wall token for $2 from their local Woolworths so it can raise more than $600,000 before the fundraiser ends on April 4.
# Follow Bella's cancer journey by visiting www.instagram.com/stylekickingcancer or https://www.facebook.com/Benefit4Bella-942407945769978/?fref=ts - ARM NEWSDESK