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Little Sarah Brookes has been through more in her 11 years than most people encounter in a lifetime.
Diagnosed in 2016 with osteosarcoma in her tibia, a rare and aggressive form of bone cancer, the young sporting talent has endured almost two years of chemotherapy, marathon operations and hospital stays. She has lost her hair, appetite, weight, ability to walk without the aid of crutches and most importantly many of the young friends she has made while battling her disease.
Yet despite all this, the plucky Year 6 student from Caringbah’s Our Lady of Fatima Primary School is determined to do what she can to stop other children going through what she has and is raising money to benefit childhood cancer research in Australia.
Called Lighting The Way For a Cure, Sarah, who is now in remission, has established a candle-making business with the proceeds being donated to charity.
In just a few short months, the tiny entrepreneur has made thousands of candles which she ships around the country to her ever-increasing army of customers.
Salted caramel ice cream, lime and coconut, mango/papaya and her personal favourite vanilla, are among some of the candles on offer which she spends hours upon hours producing.
For Sarah, making the candles is as much therapeutic as it is financial. She said not only smelling the candles but making them gives her a lot of joy.
“People love my candles, it has taken a little while to learn how to do it, lots of trial and error but now I think they are pretty good,” she beamed.
“I used to do a lot of sport which is something I can’t do any more so making candles makes me feel happy.
“When I was in hospital getting treatment I met so many other kids like me who were really sick and I wanted to help them.
“Sadly kids like my friend Gabe who was 13, died about a month ago and I wanted to do something to make a difference and stop this happening.
“I started making cards but that was a lot of hard work so I switched to candles which is also a lot of work but also a lot of fun.
“Never give up is my motto, I have been through so much, sometimes I was just too sick to even get any treatment so I had to wait until I was feeling better.
“The one day I remember as the worst was when I had a 10–hour operation on my leg, they took out the piece of bone with cancer, treated it then put it back, I felt so terrible and in so much pain when I woke up but I finally got better and on the 10th of May 2017 – which is my birthday – I finally got to ring the end of chemo bell.
“That was so great and something I wanted so much.”
Sarah was getting ready for her rep soccer finals in 2016 when she started to feel pain in her leg. Initially treated with physio, the pain didn’t abate so an x-ray was ordered and after weeks of tests worst fears were confirmed.
Mum Linda said words cannot describe the journey – not only they but their family and friends have been on.
She said their lives were forever changed but now was heading in the right direction.
“We are very blessed and grateful with Sarah’s progress,” she said.
“It was such a terribly difficult time, my husband Jon worked around the clock visiting Sarah at night while keeping the business going during the day.
“I was so fortunate I was able to get a little help during the day so I could stay with her so she was never on her own.
“So many families we met had to give up their jobs while their child was in hospital so we do appreciate that under the circumstances we were quite fortunate.
“It has been two years which are so difficult to describe, all I can say is Sarah is one tough, incredible little girl.
“We are all so proud of her, after everything she has been through rather than sit back and take it easy she wants to help others and all with a smile.
“Our family has certainly changed a lot in the past two years but one thing that hasn’t changed is how much we mean to each other.”
Sarah’s prognosis is looking positive, she still undergoes monthly scans which will be stretched out to three-monthly for the next two years before being labelled cancer free. Once strength is regained in her leg, she will be able to throw away the crutches and hopefully return to a normal life.
To order Sarah’s incredible candles and help children’s cancer research go to her Facebook page Sarah’s Charity Candles.