INSPIRATIONAL Shoalhaven teenager Brittany Booth has been honoured by Lions International with the Child of Courage award.
The Year 11 Nowra High School student, who will turn 17 in a few days, established Pillowcases for Oncology Kids three years ago.
Since then, she has donated 7000 handmade pillowcases for oncology kids in hospitals throughout the country.
The vivacious youngster, who herself battled cancer, was diagnosed with a rare germ cell tumour when just six months old.
Her quest began with the donation of approximately 120 pillowcases to the Westmead Children’s Hospital just after her 15th birthday.
“I was given a navy blue pillow case with red cherries on it by a family friend when I was two and being treated at the oncology ward at Westmead,” she said.
When nurses gave her injections, she used to bury her face in her beloved pillow, fighting back tears.
For years she took that pillowcase everywhere.
Even today, having undergone major surgery again last year, she took a pillowcase with her.
“It’s all about giving children something they can associate with and feel safe with, a security blanket, I suppose. Honestly, it’s amazing how much of a difference it can make,” she said.
What started out as something designed to “put a smile on some else’s face” by helping kids at Westmead has led to the creation of Pillowcases for Oncology Kids.
And it has grown from there.
“I never expected it to be this popular,” Brittany said.
“Now it has spread Australia wide, and we are receiving pillow cases or fabric donations from around the country.
“I never dreamed we would have given away 7000 pillow cases.”
It’s certainly a long way from that initial 120, most of which she made herself.
Brittany was honoured with her Lions International award by Lions District 201, the Lions Club of Brisbane in Jindalee, something she said was definitely a surprise.
“I never expected anything like this,” she said.
“The whole organisation is about helping children with cancer and putting some smiles on faces.
“And when you see their reactions, you just can’t explain that.”
And while Brittany and her proud parents, Brett and Tabitha, couldn’t make it to Queensland for the award, she was presented with it at a recent Nowra Lions Club dinner.
Nowra president Barrie Hepburn said Brittany was an inspiration.
“She is a very quiet and humble person who doesn’t do anything for personal gain,” he said.
“It’s not about her, it’s about helping other people. She’s very humble.
“When our Queensland associates asked if we could present the award, we jumped at it.
“It is a great honour for us as a club to be part of it.”
Brittany said seeing her lets other young cancer sufferers know they can beat the disease.
“The girls in particular are happy to see that their hair will grow back, as mine has,” she said.
Anyone can donate to Pillowcases for Oncology Kids, by making pillowcases or if they don’t sew, donating material that can be used.
com or check out the Pillowcases for Oncology Kids Facebook page.
Brittany’s epic battle
BRITTANY Booth knows how frightening going to hospital can be for a child.
She was six months old when she was diagnosed with a rare germ cell tumour.
The cancer is commonly found in boys and women of child-bearing age.
She was given just a .01 per cent chance of surviving.
She started six months of chemotherapy and 12 months to the day of her original diagnosis she relapsed. This time things were a lot harsher.
That relapse would eventually mean her treatment would last for three years.
Radiation was used as well as chemotherapy but because this type of radiation hadn’t been done before on an infant, doctors had to seek overseas advice.
Doctors in France organised a radiation schedule for Brittany that was similar to those used to treat women over there.
The first three years of her life were spent in and out of hospital. Chemo and infections made her exceptionally ill.
The teenager, a regular visitor to hospital, would have loved the chance to snuggle down in bed with something comforting and familiar that smelt like home – a pillowcase, for example.
A blue pillow case with red cherries on it, a gift from a friend, became just that for her.
And that’s where her drive for Pillowcases for Oncology Kids came from.
At last year’s Shoalhaven Relay for Life, she was the youth ambassador and said she was proud to say she had made it this far because she was a survivor.