Emma's school exchange trip to Germany was meant to be the adventure of a lifetime. An opportunity to be immersed in a new culture, make new friends and learn German from the locals.
A keen student, Emma was ready for any challenge that lay ahead, but nothing prepared the 15-year-old for what unfolded thousands of kilometres from home in Sydney.
One morning Emma noticed a rash and lump had appeared on her neck. Her host family took her to the doctors where tests revealed a swollen lymph node. Still concerned about her unexplained skin rash, Emma underwent further blood tests and was later admitted to hospital for an endoscopy.
Being unwell so far from home was scary enough, but to be undergoing medical treatment with so many unknowns was a frightening experience for the teenager.
"Here I was signing my life away on a form I couldn't read in a country I hardly knew and with a family who wasn't my own."
When Emma's biopsy results came back, the doctors in Germany contacted Emma's parents in Australia.
They then had the unimaginable task of telling their daughter that she had cancer by phone.
"I still had no idea what was happening until I talked to parents on the phone. I felt absolutely distraught and scared being thousands of kilometres away from family."
Emma's diagnosis of Nodular Sclerosis Hodgkin's Lymphoma was shattering for the family and Emma said the thoughts that ran through her head were worse than anyone could imagine.
Emma's mum flew to Germany to be by her daughter's side and prepared her quick return home - she started chemotherapy days after landing back in Sydney.
"It was all such a blur," Emma recalls. "In a matter of days, I'd been diagnosed with cancer, was back home and starting my first round of chemotherapy at Sydney Children’s Hospital."
Emma was in isolation in hospital and a world away from her regular life playing music, being with her friends and playing the sports she loves.
Thankfully amid all the pain and sadness, Starlight was there for Emma and her family making hospital a much happier place.
Captain Starlight always put a smile on my face even when I didn't think it was possible. The ward visits were the best because I was often too unwell to make it to the Starlight Express Room.Emma
Starlight TV was a constant companion in hospital and Emma said she requested more movies than she can count!
Livewire also played a vital role during her treatment keeping her busy with activities tailored to her interests and hobbies. Emma got to hone her Photoshop skills on the Livewire laptop, and had fun with clay art to help distract her from all she was going through.
Livewire made it a lot more fun and allowed me to have more good memories than bad of my time in hospital.Emma
Emma recently discovered a talent for baking, "After spending a lot of time in hospital and being bored at home, I started baking to pass the time and ended up really loving it. People wanted to buy my cupcakes so I thought I’d start raising money for Starlight."
When she heard the brand-new Starlight Express Room at Randwick has a kitchen Emma decided to share her passion for baking by generously donating a kitchen mixer.
The new appliance will take pride of place in the Starlight Express Room kitchen and we are so thankful to Emma for such an incredible gift that will help other patients and their families cook up a storm in hospital including Emma, who returns every few months for check ups.
The new Randwick Starlight Express Room was only made possible thanks to the generosity of Starlight supporters.
Because of their support, sick kids and teens like Emma now have a vibrant new space to take a break from hospital and find fun, happiness and baking bliss!
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