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Beads signify brave battle

Courtesy of Te Awamutu Courier
Samantha Turnwald
REWI Street Kindergarten pupil Samantha Turnwald (4) shows the beads that document her battle with cancer. Support beads are a feature of this year’s Child Cancer Foundation Appeal and Sam is the ‘face’ of the appeal which launched yesterday. 074071AD

By Cathy Asplin

Samantha Turnwald looks much like your average four year old - bright, bubbly, beautiful. Her eyes sparkle as the camera takes her photo and she looks a picture of health.

But the beads around her neck tell a very different story - they represent how much she has been through to make it to her fourth birthday on Monday. Each pretty ‘bead of courage’ represents a part of her battle against cancer - one for each scan, one for hair loss, one for each blood transfusion, one for each round of chemotherapy, one for each visit to the operating theatre.

When Samantha was just 15 months old and struggling to walk - unlike twin sister Lucy - her parents Jo and Mark noticed the right side of her stomach was getting harder. After doctors visits and scans Samantha’s parents were given the grim news that she had a tumour on her liver called a hepatoblastoma and secondary spots on her liver.

She was the first Waikato Hospital patient in 80 years to be diagnosed with a hepatoblastoma. A biopsy confirmed stage four cancer (out of five) and the prognosis wasn’t good.


Mark says the news came as a bit of a blur.

“I remember wanting to cry and thinking this is like a death sentence. You don’t understand what’s happening and think you’ll lose your child.”

Samantha left home at Ohaupo for Starship Hospital in Auckland and started chemotherapy immediately. Jo says once they could focus on her treatment plan and get into some sort of routine it didn’t seem quite so overwhelming.

“We were also very lucky that Sam responded so well to treatment.”

She received seven rounds of chemotherapy, with each lasting two to three days at a time. She then had part of her infected liver and her gall bladder removed. Surgery was followed by more chemotherapy. The treatment has left her with some lasting side effects, however.

“Her liver doesn’t function at full capacity and she has high-tone hearing loss. As her gall bladder was removed she also has to be very careful with her diet. She requires six monthly check-ups, but she is in remission and doesn’t remember much about the ordeal at all now.”

The Turnwalds say they received tremendous support from family, friends and the Cancer Foundation during Samantha’s battle.

“That’s why we decided to put her forward as the face of this year’s appeal. We wanted to give something back to the Child Cancer Foundation, in particular, for its practical support during her sickness.”


People who donate $4 or more to the Child Cancer Foundation can receive a ‘support bead’ in return. They are available from Retravision, Mad Butcher, JK Kids, Hyundai and Professional Real Estate branches.

Donation may also be made via the website www.childcancer.org.nz