Best friends fight aggressive cancer with help of Gladstone
BELLA Bates and Olivia Hancock both love to socialise and jump on trampolines, they love cuddles and - as they've known each other since they were babies - they love to play with each other.
However the two three-year-old friends have also spent half their lives fighting aggressive forms of brain cancer, and the Gladstone community is now preparing a gala fundraiser day to raise money to help the girls and their families.
The 8th Annual Daly's Gym Motorcycle Fundraising Ride, run by the Gladstone Amateur Boxing Club, is hoping to attract 150 riders for its fundraiser on Saturday, September 22, to support Bella and Olivia.
Mick Daly, president and head coach of the club, said, "We've all got Harleys and like to go for a ride, and over the years we've raised about $40,000 for different people."
He said bike registrations would kick off from 9am and events from 10am, with a barbecue breakfast, burgers, food and drinks, plenty of prizes for the bikes, and live entertainment until 11pm.
Central Queensland Tool Supplies owner Ron Harding is donating some of the raffle prizes and said he wanted to raise as much money as possible.
Prizes will include a $4000 tool box, a $1500 generator, and two $500 industrial electric pressure cleaners.
"We're going to have about $10,000 in prizes," he said.
Bella's mum and dad, Robin Berthelsen and Dan Bates, have been by their daughter's side since her diagnosis with brain cancer in September 2016.
Since then, she has had more than a quarter of her brain removed, been paralysed down her right side, lost her ability to swallow and eat, and lost her sight to her right side in both sides.
"We were in Brisbane for 10 months whilst Bella underwent five brain surgeries and multiple rounds of chemo. We came home in June last year and Bella had a scan a couple of months later in August which showed the tumour had returned. She had a further three brain surgeries in the latter part of last year."
Robin said this week that Bella has had clear MRI scans since November, but every three months she has another scan.
Bella has now fully regained all her movement, but only has sight out of the left side of both of her eyes.
"Looking at her you would not know what she's been through. She's a conversationalist - as soon as she opens her eyes in the morning she starts talking and she doesn't stop until she goes to sleep," Robin said.
"She loves playing with babies and dancing and cuddles. She loves jumping on the trampoline. She's a very vibrant little girl."
Robin and Megan were in the same mothers' group when the girls were babies, and they were diagnosed weeks apart from each other.
Robin said it has been helpful to have a friendship with Olivia's family.
"They're both very strong little girls and they have been through a lot so it's nice to have another family close by that has some understanding of the situation and the sorts of feelings and thoughts you still have, and fears about the future."
Olivia's parents, Megan Bale and Tim Hancock, believe a Braille machine would help Olivia as she has very limited, and most likely blurry, vision which is unlikely to improve.
Megan said she would like Olivia to be able to start reading and writing to coincide with kindy next year.
In September 2016, Olivia was diagnosed with a 10cm x 9cm x 8cm brain tumour called a Choroid Plexus Carcinoma.
Three days after her diagnosis, she had surgery which after seven hours was abandoned because of the tumour being so vascular.
Megan said that due to the size of the tumour, Olivia experienced severe hydrocephalus which caused paralysis and a constant tremor down the right side of her body, a decline in her speech, loss of muscle tone in her feet and the immense pressure that was on her optic nerves has left her with a severe visual impairment for life.
"Thankfully, after the four months of chemotherapy, she had a 60% reduction in the size of the tumour."
Surgery last year removed 97% of the tumour, and treatment finished in December.
"As Olivia's cancer is very aggressive we have three-monthly MRIs at Lady Cilento Children's Hospital in Brisbane. We have had clear scans since May last year and we hope it continues."
Olivia, Megan said, is "happy" and "busy".
"She loves toys and she loves the trampoline and she loves the outdoors. She's just very friendly. Both little girls are."
Megan said that because of her daughter's impaired vision, Olivia has developed a canny ability to recognise people by voice and smell.
"She remembers people's voices and she's very clever with that. Or she knows particular people by their smell.
"She knows when my mum is coming because of the smell of her perfume."
She said her daughter was resilient, but "she doesn't know any different".
The 8th Annual Daly's Gym Motorcycle Fundraising Ride will be held at Daly's Gym, 24 Moura Crescent, nominations are $40.