Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tree plant marks last treatment for cancer

By SARAH CODDINGTON - North Shore Times
Last updated 05:00 24/09/2009

Bianca White
NEW BEGINNINGS: Bianca White plants a tree at Oteha Valley School in celebration of her last chemotherapy treatment.

Bianca White celebrated an end to more than two years of chemotherapy treatment by planting a tree.

The six-year-old who featured on the Dominion Post website with the blog – Growing up with Cancer – held a special planting ceremony at Oteha Valley School to celebrate a new start with her classmates.

The year 1 student was diagnosed with acute lympho blastic leukaemia, a common child cancer in 2007.

Just before her fourth birthday party Bianca was diagnosed with the disease in Wellington.

After problems at the hospital the family made the move to Auckland’s Starship.

Her father Terence White says their daughter does not realise the significance of this day but she is now looking forward and happy.

"I want her to grow up like other kids, ride bikes, fall off and scrape her knees," says Mr White.

He says until now she has grown up with doctors and nurses and now it is time for her to be a child.

Bianca chose all the special people she wanted to be part of her tree planting ceremony, including friends, teachers and the junior school.

She then put a capsule underneath her six-year-old magnolia

When she turns 21 she will come back to dig up a jar that holds memories of the

Her family also celebrated the end of treatment by buying her and her sister Caitlyn a new bike.

During the past two years Bianca has collect more than 1000 beads from the Child Cancer Foundation, each represents a part of her cancer treatment.

Although Bianca is not in the clear she has finished treatment and is only taking preventive medication.

She will continue hospital check ups for the rest of her life.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bianca puts all that treatment behind her

By RUTH HILL - The Dominion Post
Last updated 05:00 21/09/2009

Bianca White
THE BIANCA TREE: Oteha Valley School planted an evergreen magnolia to mark the end of Bianca White's treatment. She calls it the Bianca tree.

In the past two-and-a-half years, Bianca White has spent 117 days in hospital, battled many infections, submitted to countless tests and suffered through chemotherapy.

'When will I be done with cancer?" Bianca White asked her mother as they counted out the last few chemotherapy doses.

She has now finished treatment and doctors have given her the all-clear but in some ways, cancer will always be part of their lives, says her mother, Lea.

"I look back to that terrible day when she was diagnosed, and at the time it felt like we'd been given a prison sentence ... But now it seems like it's gone so fast."

Bianca was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in June 2007, two weeks before her fourth birthday.

"She doesn't remember a time before she had cancer and, in some ways, that was easier, because she didn't mourn for the life she had lost. She just accepted it. But it feels weird for us now."

Bianca is enjoying not having every meal timed to fit her chemotherapy schedule. And she was surprised recently to learn the port in her chest (for intravenous medication) will soon be removed. She thought it was part of her body.

Mrs White has chronicled Bianca's ups and downs on her blog Growing Up With Cancer on and attracted more than 8200 hits in the past two months.

Watching your child suffer is the worst experience a parent could have but the experience has made the family stronger, Mrs White says.

Another blessing has been the close bonds they have formed with other families in similar predicaments.

"Those kids become friends because, a lot of the time, they can't mix with other children because of the risk of infection. And only other parents really know what you're going through because they're living it too." There was heartbreak along the way sharing with other families as they dealt with relapses, setbacks and sometimes the deaths of their children.

Right from the start, Lea and husband Terence were determined they would keep life as "normal" as possible.

Baby sister Caitlyn, now 2 1/2, helped with this. "She took a lot of the focus off the medical stuff cancer wasn't the only thing in our lives."

Last May, the family decided to move to Auckland because of uncertainty over the future of specialist child cancer services in Wellington. "We wanted to make sure that, whatever happened, we could face it together."

The Wellington unit has since been permanently downgraded to a secondary service, with support from Christchurch.

Starting at Oteha Valley School on Auckland's North Shore has been another milestone for Bianca.

The school held a ceremony and planted an evergreen magnolia last week to mark the end of Bianca's treatment.

Bianca has named it "the Bianca tree" and it is the same age as her.

"I want her to take life lessons from all this," her mother says. "One day, when she looks back and sees what she achieved, she will know nothing is impossible for her.

"We will never deny this has happened."

Read the final Growing Up With Cancer blog post at

Friday, September 18, 2009

Young cancer sufferer chases his dream of playing in black

By TANYA KATTERNS - The Dominion Post
Last updated 05:00 19/09/2009

BIGGEST FAN: Brad Burt says he had been ticking off the days till he got to meet his hero Richie McCaw.
BIGGEST FAN: Brad Burt says he had been ticking off the days till he got to meet his hero Richie McCaw.

Pure determination has helped Brad Burt battle through two major operations to remove a massive tumour from his brain stem.

And the young rugby fanatic was able to inspire All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw, as he mixed with the players during the captain's run in Wellington yesterday.

The 10-year-old, from Greytown, who refuses to let the cancer ruin his own dream of one day wearing the black jersey, shook off memories of months of treatment to tell McCaw: "Go hard, Richie, you guys can pull this off."

Over the past 10 months, Brad has endured surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy to rid him of the tumour. It will be December before his treatment is over and at least three years before his family know whether he has been cured.

Yesterday's meeting with "the greatest rugby team on Earth" had been a dream for some time, he said. "I've been ticking off every day in a special calendar. It has meant so much to me and it has helped me stop thinking about operations and blood transfusions and the hospital."

With the support of the Make a Wish Foundation, Brad, his older brother Josh and parents Illana and Glenn, have been given three days in Wellington, taking in the test match tonight and Brad's wish of meeting the All Blacks.

McCaw, who signed Brad's bald head, said it was a privilege to be able to put a smile on the youngster's face. "He's pretty inspirational ... a guy like that has obviously had a tough time and I guess the chance to put a smile on his face with something like this is a pretty easy thing from our point of view."

Brad, who was a standout prop in his under-11 team before he got sick, continues to have a never-say-never attitude seeking advice from McCaw as he chases his All Black dream.

"[I told him] just enjoy it, that's what sport is all about," McCaw said. "That's why I still play. I'm sure that's why he comes along and as long as he keeps smiling, that's the key."