Until the end of February this year, Grace Thompson seemed a fit, healthy and normal 10-year-old girl from Waipukurau who "gave everything a go".

But within a few short weeks, she had been diagnosed with a type of cancer so rare that her oncologist at Starship Hospital in Auckland had seen only one other case in New Zealand in the past 10 years.

According to her mum, Heidi, there has been a huge outpouring of support and generosity from the CHB community since the diagnosis.

With Heidi and husband Chris stepping back from their jobs to spend as much time as they can with their daughter, numerous individuals, groups and businesses had been fundraising, donating money and vouchers, offering their services and providing baking and meals for the family.


"Any money that comes in from here or there means that Chris and I can spend that extra week, or two weeks, with Grace and not have to worry.

"It's too difficult to thank everyone, but we just wanted to let everybody know what an awesome community that we live in, and how thankful and humble we are that we made Central Hawke's Bay our home eight years ago," said Heidi.

Prior to her cancer diagnosis, Heidi said Grace was "really fit" and had just won the CHB Go Kidz Triathlon for her age group.

Also a member of the CHB Cycling Club, Grace was taking part in the club's weekly road ride on a Tuesday evening when she felt severe pain in her side and had to turn around.

Grace's parents took her to the emergency department at Hawke's Bay Hospital in Hastings, but after a few basic tests failed to turn up anything, she was discharged about 1am and sent home.

But after getting in and out of bed all night, they took Grace to her local doctor the next day before she underwent an X-ray at the new radiology unit at the Tukituki Medical Centre in Waipukurau, which uncovered multiple lumps in her lungs.

Grace was referred directly back to the hospital in Hastings for an MRI and CT scan. Heidi said the MRI scan of Grace's brain and spine came back clear, but the CT scan had discovered a "grapefruit-sized" tumour in her abdomen.

Grace and her parents were transported by air ambulance to Starship in Auckland on the Sunday where she underwent a biopsy under general anaesthetic.

After a "gruelling" 10 days of waiting for the results to come back, Grace was diagnosed with Adrenal cortical carcinoma, a rare disease caused by a cancerous growth in the adrenal cortex.

"The cancer originated in the region of her adrenal gland. There were no other symptoms and no other concerns. She was an otherwise fit, healthy and normal 10-year-old girl who gave everything a go," Heidi said.

Grace was started on five days of chemotherapy before the family was discharged to Ronald McDonald House for two weeks.

"We were amazed by the warmth and friendliness provided by Ronald McDonald House during our stay, they catered to all our needs, including meals, washing and a cosy bed," said Heidi.

After returning to Starship for a second round of chemo, a further CT scan found the size of the tumour was unchanged, said Heidi.

Due to the chemotherapy having little effect, doctors have ruled out surgery as an option for Grace at this stage.

Tissue samples have been sent to a hospital in Florida in the United States to see if Grace might qualify to take part in a drug trial being provided through Starship, but the family is still awaiting confirmation.

Despite the outlook, Heidi said Grace had shown an "amazing" spirit over the last two months.

"She's the kind of kid that busies herself all the time.

"She's been doing some art stuff, she's been helping me cook lasagne and riding her pony every day.

"Just a few weeks ago she took part in Flemington School's Winter Olympics for the first time and won a couple of ribbons.

"She's been just amazing."

With the family exploring costly treatment options overseas, a donations page has been set up as of this week at givealittle.co.nz/cause/gracies-give-a-little.

Heidi said the family would also like to go on a holiday to Australia together.

"We just thought while Grace is well and happy we'd make as many memories as possible and have as much time together as we can," she said.