Molly Pa­tri­cia Ross


When she was 12, Molly was di­ag­nosed with alve­o­lar rhab­domyosar­coma ( RAB­doh- MY- oh-sar- KOH- muh) one of the seem­ingly end­less rare forms of can­cer that af­fect New Zealand chil­dren.

The grade of her can­cer meant it was in­cur­able, but treat­able in the short term. This dev­as­tat­ing news was fol­lowed by a whirl­wind month in Auck­land Hos­pi­tal try­ing to get her bloods sorted and start­ing chemo.

At home in Pahiatua a few days later, Molly sud­denly lost all mo­bil­ity due to a se­vere re­ac­tion to a com­mon chemo­ther­apy drug. She couldn’t move, eat, speak or swal­low. At the same time as this was hap­pen­ing, she con­tracted pneu­mo­nia. The pae­di­atric team in Palmer­ston North didn’t re­ally know Molly at that stage, so they as­sumed the worst. But Molly was a fighter, and sur­vive she did.

How­ever, because of her lack of mo­bil­ity she needed a lot of nurs­ing care, re­quir­ing three peo­ple to turn her, more to get her out of bed, and some­one to be with her con­stantly as she couldn’t press the bell to sum­mon help.

In Fe­bru­ary 2015, at the age of 13, Molly got one of her great­est wishes – she started col­lege. The bus picked her up and she started her first day just like any­one else. She was walk­ing with crutches with splints and she was climb­ing on that bus – no matter what.

Can­teen camp time

It was just af­ter this that we re­ally be­came in­volved with Can­Teen. We had been away from home so much that we had never re­ally had the chance to get in­volved with the lo­cal ser­vices on of­fer.

It was Can­Teen camp time and Molly was re­ally keen to go. I was very ner­vous. She didn’t know any­one, she didn’t know where she was go­ing or what she was go­ing to do, and re­ally, she was a very sick girl, but she didn’t care. It was an event to be lived!

It was al­most like I ex­pe­ri­enced an epiphany when we walked into the rooms at Can­Teen. Lots of mem­bers were there and they just wel­comed Molly like they’d known her for­ever. I was plan­ning to wait to wave them off, but Molly was just en­cir­cled in this cloud of love and em­pa­thy so I knew I wasn’t needed. It re­ally brought home to me the im­por­tance of Can­Teen.

The other ser­vices do an ex­cel­lent job and make life easier dur­ing the most hideous of times, but as chil­dren start their teenage years their needs change and they want to do dif­fer­ent things, and need to be with peo­ple their own age.

So ready

Molly was al­ways a very wise person, very ma­ture and re­spon­si­ble. She was so ready for the new ex­pe­ri­ences that Can­Teen had to of­fer. Her week­end away with Can­Teen was such a high­light to her. As usual, she gave ev­ery­thing a go and shared ex­pe­ri­ences with some fab­u­lous peo­ple her own age.

Un­for­tu­nately the trip to Auck­land the day af­ter she got back from camp was to be our last. Her scan showed nu­mer­ous

tu­mours and there were no more tricks left in the bag. We could have con­tin­ued with chemo as it seemed to slow things a lit tle, but Molly hated it so much she just wanted to come home.

Molly’s health de­te­ri­o­rated quite quickly af­ter that. But our times with Can­Teen were just be­gin­ning. Our won­der­ful Palmer­ston North Youth Worker, Karen, was up for any chal­lenges I threw at her. She was there to help make what­ever time Molly had left as en­joy­able as pos­si­ble. It was all about mak­ing mem­o­ries with Molly, mem­o­ries for the rest of us to hold on to af­ter she’d gone.

Room ‘make over’

Can­Teen had a few weeks of amaz­ing­ness lined up for the last few months of Molly’s life, but un­for­tu­nately our tim­ing wasn’t great and all these plans had to change when Molly be­came too sick. But that didn’t stop Can­Teen. They rethought the plans and started again.

We were in hos­pi­tal for ten days so Karen ar­ranged a room ‘make over’ – Can­Teen style. A group of CanTeen­ers de­scended on her room and cre­ated an in­cred­i­ble room for Molly, then left us to it. They knew what it was like to be in hos­pi­tal, so they didn’t make it a drama, they just came to help make the space as cool as a hos­pi­tal room could be and to show Molly their sup­port.

That meant so much to Molly, and to us. I thought our worst luck had struck again. Molly was hav­ing seizures and lost mo­bil­ity on one side of her body. This wasn’t how it was sup­posed to end. But in t yp­i­cal Molly style, she over­came this set­back and re­cov­ered enough to come home.

Flash mob

The one thing I knew would re­ally make Molly smile was a flash mob – when a group of peo­ple ap­pear in one pub­lic lo­ca­tion un­ex­pect­edly and put on some kind of re­hearsed per­for­mance. It was some­thing she’d al­ways loved the idea of be­ing in­volved in and we knew that Karen was the person to make it work. She had all these great ideas, com­mu­nity con­tacts and en­ergy to get it or­gan­ised and make is so spe­cial for Molly.

Ini­tially we had to post­pone the flash mob because of Molly’s health, but then on May 03 we de­cided we’d do it any­way. I think it was great medicine for all our friends. They were able to con­trib­ute to some­thing pos­i­tive for Molly and come to­gether as a fam­ily and a com­mu­nity. It’s a life­long mem­ory we all cher­ish, thanks to Can­Teen.

Molly’s story

Two days later, on 5 May 2015, Molly passed away at home, in a room filled with love. Typ­i­cal Molly style, she did this with min­i­mal fuss, wait­ing un­til ex­actly the right mo­ment, when the peo­ple she loved and who love her were with her. Life is never go­ing to be the same. It’s still pretty hor­ri­ble, and I can feel pretty bit­ter when I let my­self.

But this is our story, and I’m sure that ev­ery Can­Teen mem­ber has one. Can­Teen is the place for young peo­ple affected by can­cer to come to­gether and sup­port each other. No one on the out­side can re­ally un­der­stand, so to be in a place where ev­ery­one gets what you’re feel­ing is a real bless­ing.

Tracy Lett ( Molly’s Mum)

…which was good prac­tice for the deeper Oroua River later on.

Man­goira Stream river bed driv­ing.

Once out of the river val­ley the route went up…!

Man­goira Stream of­fered first taste of river bed driv­ing….

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