Saturday, October 11, 2008

Bittersweet birthday for cancer tot

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The final celebration
KRISTIAN SOUTH - Sunday News | Sunday, 12 October 2008

TEARS flowed as "birthday" cheers rang out yesterday for New Zealand's bravest little girl, Kyah Milne.

It was hoped Kyah, two, would be the face of a child cancer campaign after it seemed she had gone into remission from a heart-wrenching battle with deadly neuroblastoma.

But the emotional rollercoaster of the Wellington tot's short life took a tragic twist as the disease came raging back last month.

Realising they had just days left with their precious daughter, Kyah's dad Jason Milne and mum Shanell Christian brought forward her third birthday to yesterday.

The couple was determined the event would be a celebration of Kyah's heroic life rather than a sad commemoration.

"We knew she wouldn't make it to see her third birthday, so we decided to bring it forward," Shanell told Sunday News.

"We were planning to have it next weekend but we don't think she'll even hold on for that long.

"People have come from all around the country to see Kyah," said Shanell.

"This is more about everybody having a chance to say goodbye.

"It's more about celebrating her life than her birthday," she said.

Shanell shared her daughter's highs and lows in an internet blog, titled Kyah's Journey.

It attracted hundreds of hits a day as supporters sought to be updated on the little girl's struggle with neuroblastoma a rare cancer of the adrenal glands mainly affecting children under five.

Those wellwishers united to help transform Kyah's Johnsonville home into a carnival yesterday complete with a petting zoo, a bouncy castle, professional face painters and a clown.

"We were thinking we would do something big for her, but like family big. Now we've got people from all around New Zealand, some of whom we've never met face-to-face, coming to celebrate Kyah's life," Shanell said.

"We only had five days to organise it and I wrote about that on my blog and before we knew it were were getting so many offers for so many people."

A bittersweet presence at the party was a string of beads, each one representing a procedure Kyah has been through.

She has endured major surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Every day she needs several doses of morphine to keep the pain at bay.

Jason and Shanell have shared their daughter's rollercoaster ride since she was diagnosed with cancer 15 months ago.

Less than a month ago, they believed Kyah was just weeks away from being in remission. But on September 16, they were were given the devastating news the cancer had returned terminally.

"We don't see it as losing Kyah," Shanell said. "We see that through all her treatments and therapy we had seven fantastic months with our baby girl. She was fantastic, she loved being the centre of attention.

"We even applied for her to be the face of next year's child cancer campaign. She was just a normal happy little girl for eight months and that is a time that we will always be able to cherish."

While the family are preparing to say goodbye to little Kyah, they are also working hard to ensure her brief but blazing life will create goodness and kindness for others.

They are fundraising for the Child Cancer Foundation and Ronald McDonald House.

"When Kyah was in hospital in Christchurch I don't think we could have survived without that network," Jason said.

"We almost didn't want to leave, because it was like leaving a part of your family. We could never do enough to say thank you."

TradeMe is running a continuous auction on behalf of Kyah's family, where buyers bid for the right to sign their username on a T-shirt before putting it back up for auction. They are hoping the scheme will raise $5000 for CCF.

And Kyah's big brothers Kaleb, 12, and Jordan, seven, have been growing their hair long so they can shave it off as a fundraiser.

"Last year I managed to raise $750," Kaleb said.

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