How Woolies is helping Bundy girl in cancer battle
MADDISON Challen is six years old, loves kiwi birds, the colour pink, snowpeas and playing with her brother, Andrew.
But for the past three years, Maddison has spent hundreds of days in hospital between Bundaberg and Brisbane, fighting cancer.
Maddison's diagnosis of Rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer which is made of cells that develop in skeletal muscles, came in 2017 after a family holiday.
And after rounds of chemotherapy, which Maddison is allergic to, radiation and surgery, the size of her tumour has reduced from a grapefruit to a grain of rice. But her battle isn't over yet.
Maddison's next round of treatment begins today in Brisbane, where she will stay for eight weeks with her mother, Vanessa Challen.
Vanessa said the distance between family and friends, who have been the backbone of their support system in Maddison's journey, was isolating.
When at the hospital for Maddison's treatments, older son Andrew, 8, stays with his grandmother, as Vanessa's husband works away.
"We have spent 100 days in hospital in Bundaberg so far this year,” Mrs Challen said.
"All of our friends and family live in Bundaberg and it's good for when things are hard and the days get long. We're lucky to have good friends who have stayed for Maddison's journey.”
But she said the progress made by treatments was a feat.
"Between surgery, radiation and chemo, its amazing of what little (of the tumor) is left from what we started with,” she said.
Vanessa's next goal is to see Maddison attend school for Year 2, and to socialise with her friends.
"Hopefully she can start with her friends and get to be a kid. There are all those rights of passage ... she can't go to the park because of her bags of fluid (she carries) and the germs,” she said.
"I just want to see her be happy and healthy enough to do these things.”
Maddison and Vanessa are joining with Woolworths to help raise funds for the Children's Hospital Foundation to purchase needed equipment for Bundaberg Hospital.
Vanessa said she was very grateful for the staff at Bundaberg Hospital who had become "like family”.
"The main thing in this campaign is that the money goes to the local hospital, it helps keep kids here instead of having to go to Brisbane.”
"Maddison has been able to go home and play with her brother and friends and bring a bit of normality to life instead of being in a hospital (all the time).”
The campaign runs from August 21 to September 10. Those wanting to donate can do so at Woolworths Hinkler Central.