Anna is a reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Brave Tauranga girl's cancer battle

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Shenyce Marsden-Roberts used to be a keen athlete.

The 11-year-old spent five years playing netball with girls her own age on Saturday mornings.

Then she got cancer.

In May, the Te Puke Intermediate student found out cancer cells had been forming in her muscle tissue and had created a ribcage tumour.

She has been away from school since and undergone chemotherapy treatments while spending every third week in Auckland.

On top of this, the family were homeless, living in a single garage that belonged to family for six months until a month ago.

Mother Richelle Stables finds it hard to talk about their ordeal.

"I thought I'll be fine, I'd be able to talk about it quite frankly, but it's still quite hard," she told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend.

Shenyce told her mother she had a lump on her left rib cage, but Miss Stables thought it was her rib bone.

"The weeks went by, and we were at my auntie's funeral, Monday the 9th of May. It was a warm day, but [Shenyce] was covering herself.

"We went into the toilets and she said 'Mum it's that lump', when she showed me it was the size of a grapefruit."

They got it checked the next day, and from then they have been in and out of hospitals, travelling to and from Auckland, as they start the journey to recovery.

The lump Shenyce felt was a hemorrhage bleed which came from the tumour further in her body.

Shenyce's first chemotherapy treatment was on May 24 and she has had treatment every week since.

Her last trip to Auckland was the lowest points her mother had ever seen, after a 10-hour treatment of chemotherapy was met with a night in the emergency department surrounded by nurses and doctors after she had a high temperature.

Read more: Patients privacy breached at Bay hospitals

Shenyce lost 1.7kg in the 24 hours after.

Miss Stables, who shaved her own head when her daughter lost her hair, said the hardest part was knowing the treatment helped Shenyce while watching the toll it took on her.

The chemotherapy and losing her hair were not the hardest parts for Shenyce. It was telling her best friend she had cancer.

Her best friend, who Shenyce had known since she was 6, broke down crying.

Shencye said it was harder than the treatments.

Mother and daughter stayed at Auckland's Ronald McDonald for nine weeks.

They could have come home to Tauranga earlier but at that time, they did not have a home.

Miss Stables her partner, and the four children had been living in a family member's single garage since February.

The pair were full time workers in no financial struggle, "but it was the fact that my family was too big we kept getting turned away," she said.

"This year was probably one of our worst years -- ever.

"Everything just tumbled down, it crumbled. "

Miss Stables looked for homes while at Starship Hospital, after she gave up her job to look after Shenyce.

The family finally found a home in Papamoa four weeks ago.

They have their up days, and certainly have their down days, she said.

"But we keep positive. No matter how bad our day is, we've got to turn it around and look at the good side of things."

Shenyce still has nine to 15 months of chemotherapy to go and a Givealittle page has been started to help pay for travel costs, expenses in Auckland and fulfil her dreams once she is better.

Since starting her treatment, Shenyce has been thinking about those special dreams.

Sitting in their lounge this week, a woolly "Yea Na" beanie covering Shenyce's head where tight curls once fell, her eyes lit up when she talked about going to Rainbows End once she was better.

A trip to Australia to see white tigers, bungee jumping off the Sky Tower, and a possible skydive was also on the agenda, as well as getting back into netball and school.

Shenyce's birthday will be celebrated next Sunday with a cake decorated with a netball and music notes, two of her favourite things.

Miss Stables wanted to thank everyone who had supported Shenyce and the family over the past year, including the Hunga hunga Toroa marae which had put on a large fundraiser and the Child Cancer Foundation.

To donate to Shenyce, go to: givealittle.co.nz/cause/support-shenyce

This month is Child Cancer Awareness month. To find out more go to: www.childcancer.org.nz

- Bay of Plenty Times

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