The rash that appeared on Hannah Sam six years ago turned out to be the last thing her parents expected.
"We thought she might be allergic to something," her father Scott said.
He and his wife Tracey worried as the rash persisted and took Hannah for "many blood tests".
“She was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia on 26 June 2006. It’s the common childhood cancer, but we never though this would happen,” Tracey said.
The next day three year old Hannah began nine months of intensive chemotherapy at John Hunter Hospital, followed by a chemo tablet every night for two years.
“You go to a very dark place...it’s harrowing to hold your child down in the operating theatre while she’s screaming ‘no, Mummy and Daddy I don’t want that’ when they do a subcutaneous [under the skin] injection.”
Tracey’s sister took care of baby son Joshua while the other three Sams travelled between hospital and home at Rankin Park.
“All your attention goes to the sick child and the brothers and sisters get left behind. It’s hard for them too,” Tracey said.
“We wouldn’t be together if it wasn’t for Camp Quality (CQ). They shone the light that we needed.”
The children’s cancer charity came into the Sams’ lives six weeks into Hannah’s chemo.
It was the first time Hannah “really smiled”.
“I remember the shaving cream fight and the lollies from the anaesthetist,” Hannah grinned.
Slight and pale, Hannah’s appearance belies her strength. Although not yet in the ‘five year clear ‘mark, she responded well to the treatment.
Inspired by his daughter’s experience, Scott Sam and 30 other volunteers pedalled 1000kms and visited 19 primary schools for CQ’s 2012 “1000 K's 4 Kids - Ipswich to Newcastle”.
Scott explained, “Hannah’s done a Triathlon and participates in school sports carnivals. She was my motivation. It’s my way to pay CQ back.”
From September 7 - 16 the team, including a support crew of 15, a bike mechanic and medical staff cycled through Ipswich, Toowoomba, Warwick, Tenterfield, Glen Innes, Uralla, Tamworth, Gunnedah, Murrurundi, Singleton and Newcastle.
“We rode for 10 days, about six to seven hours each day but 10 on the first,” Scott recalled.
At each school, with the help of volunteers from Queensland and NSW, the group presented a half hour puppet program about cancer, the treatment and side effects.
“It’s encouraging kids not to laugh because someone comes back to school very skinny and white, with no hair,” said Scott.
Tracey adds, “It’s OK to wear a special hat or scarf. Cancer is not contagious, if you cough on someone they won’t get it.”
Sporting the CQ colours of red, orange, yellow, blue, purple and pink, 45 exhausted but elated volunteers streamed into The Junction at midday on a recent Sunday with a total of $232,000.
“CQ needs $400,000 to run its programs and camps. We met half of their budget with this ride.” Scott looked pleased.
Another successful fundraiser was Hannah’s school walkathon that raised $5,200.
“Corpus Christi Primary at Waratah has been fantastic, they got right behind us. There are only 196 students in the school and Thomas Fulmer from Corpus Christi also went though CQ, so there are at least two families by cancer,” Tracey said.
“It completely changes the direction of your life and opens your eyes to all the people in this world who do incredible things for others.”
You may like to visit www.campquality.org.au