30 September 2022

Hanna the hero: Childhood Cancer Awareness Month 2022

 

Hanna Bocon has been under the care of the Piam Brown children’s cancer ward at Southampton Children’s Hospital since 2019. Since then, Hanna and mum, Agata, have been navigating the immense challenges that come with a cancer diagnosis.

Through it all, Hanna and her family have shown incredible resilience. We spoke to Agata, who told us why Hanna is such an inspiration and a hero in her eyes:

“My daughter Hanna is 13 years old. She was diagnosed in October 2019 with a Desmoid tumour and fibromatosis. This is a rare soft-tissue abnormality which is extremely aggressive and uncommon amongst children.

During the 2019 summer holiday we found a lump on Hanna’s left arm. She started to complain that it hurt from time to time, but we didn’t think much of it. Our first thoughts were that she might have bashed into something but after this persisted, we knew it wasn’t a case.

 

After a biopsy in October at Stanmore Hospital, London, we finally we knew what it was. Hanna was diagnosed with cancer, and from that moment onwards, Hanna was under the care of Southampton Children’s Hospital as our local specialist hospital.

By March 2020, Hanna’s tumour had grown to more than 25% it’s original size, so her doctor made the difficult decision to start chemotherapy.

While her first chemotherapy session was in Southampton, the next was in Brighton to save us the two-hour journey to and from Southampton. Then every three months Hanna had to have MRI scan to check if her cancer had grown or spread, before going back to Southampton for consultation.

During Hanna’s chemotherapy we had to shield due to her lowered immunity, and it was the start of the Coronavirus pandemic which brought about a lot of additional uncertainty.

Hanna faced these challenges with such a bravery and understanding, but the side effects hit her hard, and she was very unwell.

Her hair thinned, and her taste of food changed. She suffered fatigue and was being sick from the treatment.

Hanna is my hero because she went through all of this with such a great attitude. Even when she was at her sickest, she was still joking and laughing.

Then as soon as she was able to, Hanna went back to school even though every other Wednesday she went to the hospital to receive chemotherapy. They arranged for her blood tests to be done at school in the morning so she didn’t fall behind with her school work.

I remember when she had online history lesson just one day after treatment, and she felt sick. She had to go away for a few minutes, but she came back like nothing had happened. She simply sent message to her teacher explaining what had happened.

That was the moment that I knew that Hanna is stronger than I thought. With all the support from Southampton Children’s Hospital, she will be able to manage.

Hanna finished her treatment in April 2021.

Her tumour shrunk, but due to the aggressive nature of her type of cancer, every three months Hanna still has MRI scans.

During her treatment, Hanna lost mobility in her left elbow. She can currently bend her elbow by around 50 degrees. This has a considerable impact on the functional use of her left arm, particularly with eating, drinking and personal care activities.

Even though there is no cure, and Hanna is under care of four hospitals (London, Southampton, Brighton, and Worthing), she is still a very caring and lovely girl. She is a fighter and my hero.”

 

Hanna has gone above and beyond to raise awareness and funds to support children living with cancer. In July, Hanna helped raise over £2,000 for Southampton Hospitals Charity towards the Piam Brown Ward fund through sharing her personal experiences at school.

She explained: “The fundraiser was a way for me to say thank you to the hospital for all the help and support I received.

I also wanted to spread awareness about childhood cancer and how it affects our daily lives.

I want to spread a message of hope to other children going through cancer, and to tell them they are not alone. My hope is that one day, they will be able to find a cure.”

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