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Year 12 students at Ormiston College are gearing up to chop off their hair in a show of camaraderie and support for a classmate who has been diagnosed with bone cancer.
Redlands student Lily Veenboer went from a healthy, happy 17-year-old to a sick, withdrawn teenager in a matter of weeks, after doctors delivered the news that she had advanced metastasis osteosarcoma.
“I went to my doctor because I thought I had pulled a muscle in my hip but, a week later, I was told I had a tumour in my pelvis that had eaten away my bone, as well as other tumours attached to my chest and spine,” Lily said.
Click here to support Lily and her classmates
“A tumour removing surgery left me temporarily paralysed and then disabled, as they had to replace a large section of my pelvis with a bone from my calf. I had to rely on others to take care of my every need and had to use a Zimmer frame to get around.”
“To have any life at all, I have had to give up normality and all dignity.”
To shine a light on cases like Lily’s, her classmates are raising funds for Mater Chicks in Pink by chopping off their hair on Tuesday 12 October.
Their locks will be used to make wigs which will be made into wigs for cancer patients who lose their own hair during treatment.
Ormiston College Headmaster Brett Webster said ‘The Chop’ was one of the school’s most notable annual service initiatives. Each year students in their final year of school participate by cutting off their hair to raise funds for charity, but this year Lily’s case has galvanised her classmates and brought the impacts of the disease into sharp focus.
“It’s been a long-standing annual tradition at Ormiston College for Year 12 students to participate in ‘The Chop’ to help raise funds for local charities, but it’s particularly personal this year with Lily circumstances,” Mr Webster said.
“The College community is incredibly proud of the commitment and support that students are demonstrating for Lily this year – the girls' generosity of heart and their very genuine wish to make a difference to those less fortunate, is to be greatly admired.
“They have already raised almost $35,000 that they intend to donate to cancer support and research group, Mater Chicks in Pink.”
Lily had an active life until a few months ago. She was appointed as a school House Captain, working part time, playing netball and touch football and rehearsing for the school musical. She was focused on achieving good ATAR results and preparing for her upcoming formal.
“I was ignorant to the fact my body was degenerating so rapidly from the inside,” she said.
“I had to stop everything for treatment and undertake an intensive chemotherapy plan that involved receiving medication five days a week with an IV attached 24 hours a day.
“After chemotherapy and surgery, the specialists found that the cancer I had was actually not the one they initially diagnosed me with. They’ve now put me on a radiation therapy plan to hopefully get rid of the remaining tumours in my body. The surgery was successful in getting out the root of the cancer, thankfully.
“I recently went to a wig shop and found a blonde colour of the perfect length I had always wanted. The lady put it on and let me look in the mirror and, for a second, I saw a glimpse of myself again.
“For a moment, I was just a girl again with a new haircut, instead of the alien I had been seeing in my reflection.
“The wig allowed me to have a few days at school and at home where I just felt 17 again and it was the biggest luxury in the world.”
Mater Foundation Executive Director Andrew Thomas thanked Lily and her classmates for backing Mater Chicks in Pink, which funds life-saving research, care and services for women battling breast cancer.
“Lily is an inspirational young woman who has touched the hearts of everyone at Ormiston College,” Andrew said.
“Mater Chicks in Pink can’t thank Lily and her friends enough for the support they’re giving us.
“Every dollar they raise will go towards supporting women battling breast cancer.
“Mater would not be able to do what we do for women with breast cancer without the incredible work of our fund-raisers.”
To donate please go to: fundraise.mater.org.au/fundraisers/OrmistonCollegeTheCHOP2021