Laura’s steely determination stares down cancer challenge
THINK of a fighter and the image of a boxer bouncing energetically in the ring, fists raised for combat, comes to mind.
But not all fighters use their fists; nor do they enter a ring for combat.
Mary Valley teenager Laura Sharman is fighting the battle of her life against recurrent cancer with a smile, a relentlessly positive attitude and a song in her heart.
Laura, 15, has an extremely rare cancer called peripheral nerve sheath sarcoma, which affects her leg.
The form of rare cancer normally afflicts adults, making Laura's battle even more unusual.
Her mother, Sharon-Ann, says her daughter's illness is a one in two million occurrence.
I've only found three adult males in the United States who have it," Ms Sharman said.
Laura was first diagnosed just before her September 23 birthday in 2013, and began a round of chemotherapy shortly after.
When Laura's mother first saw an MRI scan of her daughter's tibia bone, three tumours on the bone left a lasting impression.
"It looked like there was a giant jellyfish around her muscles," Ms Sharman at the time.
The chemotherapy finished in February last year before radiation started in March.
Radiation caused significant burns to Laura's leg, leading to a deformity of the muscles requiring intensive rehabilitation.
While doctors and Laura worked hard to regain function in her disfigured leg, the entire treatment plan was upturned on Christmas eve last year when Laura and her family received another blow.
"We found out from the oncologist the cancer has returned and metastasised to the right lung," Ms Sharman said.
The metastasis was detected in the lung following a routine scan and left Laura, her family and her team of doctors scrambling.
As Laura's cancer is exceptionally rare, there are no medical guidelines to direct treatment or give an informed prognosis.
"It's all terribly unknown and there are just not enough studies for the doctors to give any indication," Ms Sharman said.
The Borumba teen is now one month into a three-month trial treatment and her resolve to get better is not waning.
"We just live every day as it comes and enjoy the moment," Laura's mother said.
"Laura just amazes me with her attitude and she is so determined."
Laura receives her treatment in Brisbane and spends a lot of time singing for sick children and making little smiles light up the hospital ward.
She also looks forward to one day being able to tackle the teenage rite of passage - getting a licence.
The gloves are now off in Laura's fight against her cancer.