Every day in Australia, two families receive the heartbreaking diagnosis that their child has cancer, just like Zahli (11).
In 2021, Zahli sat with her parents Jason and Steph in their hometown of Streaky Bay and faced the devastating news that she had been diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma – an aggressive and rare type of bone cancer.
Image: Zahli after undergoing a gruelling five-hour operation to remove 16cm of bone in her lower leg.
When Zahli turned to her parents and said, “Am I going to die?” all her doctor was able to say was, “I can’t tell you whether you are or not, but I can tell you we’re going to try and do our best to make everything better for you.”
A large, cancerous tumour had grown in Zahli’s leg, dealing a crushing blow to the active preteen accustomed to skateboarding, surfing and running amok with her brothers Connor (12) and Kai (8). It was a shocking discovery at a doctor’s appointment following months of ongoing pain in her leg.
Jason and Steph still had to deliver the heartbreaking news to Zahli’s brothers.
Jason says, “It was pretty hard to explain that she had cancer, that’s for sure, but the boys have both been amazing.”
Zahli’s health quickly became the family’s priority and within weeks they packed up their lives and relocated to Adelaide to be closer to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital for treatment.
Jason explains, “We just don’t have the hospital facilities in Streaky Bay. It’s 700km from the Women’s and Children’s Hospital and if Zahli happens to get sick overnight we want her to be in the best spot possible, which is Adelaide.”
Image: Zahli with the support of her loving brothers, Connor (left) and Kai (right).
In April 2021, Zahli underwent a gruelling five-hour operation to remove 16cm of bone in her lower leg. With the help of her medical team, crutches, and her steely determination, she was walking within days of the surgery, but the recovery process will be long.
Jason says, “All we ask is for Zahli to be able to get back home and to try and lead a normal life, go down to the beach, go swimming and catch up with friends. People always think ‘it will never be me’ and then suddenly, it is.”
Image: Zahli embracing her dad, Jason, pre-diagnosis.
Zahli’s battle with cancer is only just beginning but her courage inspires us.
“If she had her hair, you wouldn’t even know what she’s going through,” Jason says. “She’s a little pocket rocket. She’s a very strong little girl.”
The Women’s & Children’s Hospital Foundation funds medical research to find cures for paediatric cancer, supports vulnerable families who have sick children and are experiencing financial duress, runs Play Therapy programs for patients and their siblings, and helps kids transition back to school through the Oncology School Visit Program.
Supporting families every step of their journey.
Your support will fund services and programs that directly benefit families like Zahli’s.
Your support is helping to find cures for paediatric cancer.
The Women’s & Children’s Hospital Foundation invests over $1.5 million each year in South Australia’s best and brightest medical researchers to drive better health outcomes for children and ensure the Women’s and Children’s Hospital retains leaders in specialised paediatric and maternal medicine.
Your support helps families in crisis.
Experiencing financial hardship is incredibly stressful for anyone, let alone parents who are already facing significant challenges and worries due to the care of a sick child.
Each year as part of the Women’s & Children’s Hospital Foundation’s Family Support Fund, financial support is given to vulnerable families who have sick children and are experiencing financial duress.
The Fund assists families in covering the costs of transport and accommodation related to their child’s hospitalisation, and emergency bills including the cost of maintenance of medical equipment to use at home.
Your support helps sick kids like Zahli when Hospital becomes home.
Across all corners of the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, the WCH Foundation is proud to fund the play therapy program. Whether a child is in hospital for day surgery, an appointment in the outpatient department, or if hospital becomes home, play therapy is a critical program that reduces the stress and anxiety they may feel.
One key program is the Paediatric Palliative Care Siblings program. Coordinated by an Art Therapist, it supports the emotional and psychosocial needs of children that have a sibling with a life-limiting illness. Using art therapy techniques, the program allows siblings to connect with one another, express feelings including those of loss and grief, and develop coping strategies, as well as have fun and feel special with other young people their age. Through this process, art making is used as a tool for communication and enables the expression of an experience when words may be hard to find.
Your support helps kids like Zahli transition back into school.
Working with the Michael Rice Centre, the WCH Foundation assists the Oncology School Visit Program.
Staff from the Michael Rice Centre and Hospital School collaborate to run the Oncology School Visit Program that creates greater connections between cancer patients’ kindergartens or schools and the Women’s and Children’s Hospital. This program works with local teachers and students and eases the transition for patients and their siblings back into their home school environment.