Nora came into the world as a little bundle of happiness for her mum and dad.

Baby Nora and her brothers

The youngest of three kids, she seemed to be a perfectly healthy baby, developing well and even reaching some of her milestones early. Then one afternoon she woke from her afternoon nap and had lost movement in her legs.

In a matter of days, the family's world came crashing down when doctors found a fist-size tumour in her chest crushing her spinal cord.

Nora was diagnosed with the rare early childhood cancer called neuroblastoma.

Nora in hospital

At just eight months old, Nora was fighting for her life as the tumour was crushing her spinal cord. Mum Naomi said the grief was unimaginable.

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At the moment of diagnosis, our life as we knew it and the future we had planned flashed before us, and everything became uncertain.
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Nora's mum, Naomi

Nora sick

Nora started treatment straight away and hospital became their second home. Naomi said amid all the pain, their little girl's fighting spirit shone through.

"She's a fighter, she had to be to get through six months of chemotherapy and surgery and never-ending tests, scans and needles."

Nora in hospital

Mum Naomi was caring for Nora 24/7 with a lot of time at hospital, while dad Hannes reduced his working hours. It was a struggle as the family felt torn in half.

"Financially, emotionally and mentally, everything changed," Naomi said.

Nora in hospital bed with ipadIt was hard on Nora's two brothers Jonte and Johnas who were only four and six at the time. Nora's grandparents became 'second parents' and Hannes' mother flew to Perth from Austria to help care for the boys.

"Suddenly different people were picking our boys up from school all the time and mummy, who'd always been there for them, wasn't around because she was at hospital with their sister," Naomi said.

The family had to limit outings and activities as Nora's immune system was so low from the chemotherapy. Even the simple task of grocery shopping was too high risk and the boys stayed with their grandparents if they got sick to keep Nora safe.

The one bright light during Nora's long and gruelling time in hospital was discovering Captain Starlight and the Starlight Express Room.

Nora spent six months at the Princess Margaret Hospital (now Perth Children's Hospital), and Naomi says Starlight helped the whole family cope with the pain and sadness of Nora's illness and treatment.

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The boys always wanted to go to the Starlight Express Room whenever they came to the hospital. It gave my husband Hannes time with Nora and I could spend some much-needed fun time with my boys, Jonte and Johnas. I felt like I missed so much of their lives that year.
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Nora's mum, Naomi

Nora's brothers in the Starlight Express Room

Nora with Captain StarlightThe family did everything they could to stay positive, and Starlight helped bring joy and happiness amid all their pain.

Nora's eyes lit up whenever the Captain Starlights visited the ward with laughter and delivered balloon animals. It broke up the long days when she was confined to her hospital room.

Naomi said, "The Captain Starlights are so friendly and positive, they keep the fun alive. Kids just want to be kids and Starlight gives them that gift."

Thankfully, Nora has finished treatment for now, but regular hospital check-ups continue.

Most visits to the hospital involve a trip to the Starlight Express Room, and having fun with Captain Starlight gives Nora something to look forward to after every appointment.

Nora in Starlight Express Room

Nora has recently started ballet and takes pride in twirling around the house in her tutu!

Naomi said it's so wonderful to see her daughter doing the 'normal' stuff she missed out on during her cancer treatment - like swimming in the ocean and jumping in the pool.

Nora after treatment

To Starlight supporters, Naomi said:

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Thank you for everything you have done for Nora and our family. Your support helped us make this unbearable journey a much more positive one filled with happy memories.
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Nora's mum, Naomi
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