Woman Fights Rare Cancer Called Rhabdomysarcoma

November 18, 2015

Hastings woman Harmony Te Meihana is two years into a five-year journey – a journey fuelled by a strong spirit and absolute determination.

She said she is in a state of “maintenance” as she goes through the trial of battling a rare form of cancer called rhabdomysarcoma, which was diagnosed as a malignant mass in her sinuses.

The now 24-year-old has undergone strenuous and challenging treatments over the past three years, but as the form of cancer is known to have a high chance of returning specialists are unable to give the “in remission” declaration for five years.

“This is my second year.”

The day she and her family found out it was malignant, and there would be a gruelling battle ahead, was Christmas Day, 2012.

“It brought heartache to everyone I know,” she said.

But it also brought a ferocious determination from everyone around her with her mum Tracy declaring that “after every bad thing really good things will follow”.

It was a week before the Christmas of 2012 that she noticed one eye appeared to be protruding out and her workmates told her she should go and have it checked out.

With her mum, she went to see a doctor and he referred her immediately to the Emergency Department at Hawke’s Bay Hospital where a CT scan of her head was quickly carried out.

It showed a mass growing in the sinuses.

So a biopsy was carried out and the anxious wait for the results began.

The news was shattering – more so when she was told it was a cancer which grew rapidly, surgery was not an option and there was an 80 per cent chance it could return in three years, despite extensive treatment.

So the chemotherapy began, as did Ms Te Meihana’s stoic resolve.

“My mum started to research about cancer and see what I could do to help my situation – like eating healthy, cutting out sugar and meat, plenty of exercise and laughter.”

She took that path and said along with the chemotherapy the tumour began to shrink, and surgery then became an option.

Things became a little brighter, and she said many good things had come out of being so ill – one of them was coming into contact with Kerrie Waby, a youth worker with CanTeen.

“When I was diagnosed I was given a counsellor and she mentioned CanTeen, and we ended up meeting Kerrie,” she said. As she found out, the organisation was not just about supporting young people with cancer – it supported family members as well.

” I didn’t know this before I was diagnosed and joining CanTeen was like joining another family,” she said, adding she had always been a positive person.

” I have two mottos that I say to myself every morning as a wake up – ‘every day is a good day’ and ‘winners never quit and quitters never win’.”

She said she believed good things happened to good people “and CanTeen is one of those good things”.

While the word “remission” is still three years away she had got on with life, undaunted.

She is studying at Massey University doing a major in Maori Studies.

“I’m in the middle of exams at the moment and I’m going to the EIT next year.”

Her focus now is juggling things so she can be part of the Mitre 10 Mega Walk being held in the Bay on November 8, which raises funds for CanTeen.

“I’ve done marshalling before and helping out and I want to be there again for them.”

– Hawkes Bay Today

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