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Family’s fighting spirit shines through as face of relay

face of relay
The Challen Family are this year's face of relay.

This year’s Relay for Life will be a special one for the Challen family who have been selected as the 2022 face of relay after their daughter Maddison's brave battle with cancer.

While the challenges continue to be ongoing for the family, they have taken the opportunity to tell their story through the Bundaberg Relay for Life to make sure other families know they are not alone.

Maddison’s journey started when she was just four years old, with her mother Vanessa saying the family had to overcome many challenges in the midst of her ongoing treatment.

However, her daughter's fighting spirit has kept them going.

“Maddison was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, which is a soft tissue cancer, when she was four and it changed our whole world,” Vanessa said.

“Everything from our family life right through to the medical practices saw us challenged and have to change our routine.

“With paediatric patients not treated locally, it meant we had to split our family up and Maddison and I headed to Brisbane, while my husband and son Andrew stayed in Bundaberg.”

Having had multiple surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, Maddison will have ongoing health conditions that will continue for the rest of her life.

Vanessa said she hoped the involvement in Relay for Life would help other families who were experiencing their own cancer battle.

“Maddison has got a lot of long-term side effects from the chemotherapy and radiation, so we are still coping, but from where she was 12 months ago she is a much happier and stronger little girl,” she said.

“I hope our involvement with Relay for Life helps other families who have children who may be going through similar things realise that they are not alone, and the feelings they are experiencing are completely normal and it does happen to other people.”

Maddison said it was special to have her whole family involved in this year’s relay, having spent a lot of time in hospital and away from her dad and brother.

“I really like helping people and I am excited for costumes I get to see at the event and making everyone happy and helping out so other people will be better,” Maddison said.

“My family is very special, whenever I am scared my mum holds my hand and my brother cheers me up and my dad always helps me.

“Spending family time together is rare because my dad is working, and my brother is at school a lot and so it just leaves me and my mum so we don’t get to spend much time all together.”

Vanessa said while it was hard to see your children unwell, knowing that there were people supporting you and your family made it easier.

“It is such a hard time watching your children be sick, but I hope this helps others realise that you do have this strength within yourselves,” Vanessa said.

“During those times where you feel as though you can’t do it there is always someone you can reach out to or something to look back on that can give you the strength to get through it.

“It really is one foot in front of the other, don’t look too far down the track at what is going to happen in a years’ time, just keep realistic goals and see what is going to happen tomorrow.”

Maddison said while the past few years had been rough, she was looking forward to continuing to share her story so other children can also feel better.

“I am nine, turning ten this year and so it has been a bit of a rough journey since I was diagnosed but I feel so much stronger and braver now,” she said.

“I want others to know I always shut my eyes, take a deep breathe if you are afraid and all your fear will go away.

“I hate needles! So, I always shut my eyes and pretend I was asleep and hold my mum’s hand which helps me a lot.

“I have had chemo, radiation and so many surgeries but there have always been people there to help me through it.”

Relay for Life will be held on Saturday 13 August at the Bundaberg Recreational Precinct.

You can get involved by registering online here.

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