Joburg parents ‘go to war’ to get treatment for daughter battling rare form of cancer
She was an active, energetic 11-year-old, playing sports and having fun with her friends.
PHOTO: supplied

But in a matter of days, she was suddenly in hospital, undergoing her first round of aggressive chemotherapy.

Hannah Katz was diagnosed with embryonal parameningeal rhabdomyosarcoma in August.

The rare form of cancer is a malignant tumour that arises from a normal skeletal muscle cell, according to Sarcoma Help.

The bubbly youngster from Johannesburg started having severe headaches that affected her sleep and complaining about a pain in her right eye. That’s when her worried parents, Julian and Hayley, decided to take her to see a doctor.

“We immediately had it checked out by an ENT. It moved very fast because they did an MRI scan and that showed that something was there – we didn’t quite know what it was,” says Julian.

The very next day Hannah went in for an operation in order to remove her adenoids and that’s when doctors discovered a soft mass and quickly performed a biopsy.

Results of the tissue removal showed that Hannah had the rare form of cancer, which saw her immediately undergo chemotherapy.

“From the first symptoms to the diagnosis to full-blown chemo treatment it took about 10 days, it was very fast,” says Julian.

Her parents are determined to find a cure for their beautiful Hannah.

“We are broken but at the same time we know that it’s up to us to find a treatment and a cure for her. We don’t have an option, we just have to go to war.”

The position of Hannah’s tumour in her body makes it impossible for surgeons to operate. She currently visits the hospital four days a week for her chemo sessions.

“Because of the chemotherapy, her white-blood cell count has taken a huge knock. Twice she’s been hospitalised for infection and she had to have a transfusion two weeks ago – so she’s fighting hard,” says Julian.

Her parents hope to send her to try out a new radiation process in the US called Proton Beam Therapy – it allows for greater amounts of radiation but still has a low chance of damaging surrounding tissue. They believe it’s their precious daughter’s only real chance at beating this illness.

“The radiotherapy that she needs is unfortunately not available in South Africa, it’s such an expensive treatment and it is so specialised that it’s only available in a few places around the world,” says a desperate Julian.

Hannah, who acquired her South African karate colours two years in a row, jumped out of her hospital bed on Sunday 10 September and went to compete in a dojo karate competition at the Standard Bank Arena.

“She won a gold medal and went straight back to the hospital to carry on her treatment,” says her proud father.

If that wasn’t enough, Hannah has also recently designed colourful Relate bracelets to pay for her treatment and to create jobs for low-income communities.

The courageous karate champ hopes for life to go back to normal if she wins the battle against her illness.  

“She just wants her old life back, she wants to go back to school, be with her friends and go back to classes,” says Julian.

Hannah’s parents have set up a GoFundMe page in order to collect money towards her radiotherapy treatment in the US. 


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