May 30, 2014
THE Leukaemia Foundation’s 2014 theme for the World’s Greatest Shave annual celebration is Shave for a Cure. This is fitting as the funds predominantly go towards research, as well as free emotional and practical services for the patients and families.
Liliana Caz, a 17 year-old South Melbourne resident is supporting the cause by both raising funds and shaving her head. She has thrust the wider community to get involved in raising funds for research programs into finding a cure for devastating blood disorders.
The year 11 Saint Michaels Grammar School student sat before an audience of over 200 cheering students, teachers and parents as her long brunette locks were chopped, shaved and trimmed.
Liliana has already helped to engage her friends and the south Melbourne community to better inform people about these common blood cancers. Liliana got involved in the fundraiser during her school’s celebrations with the “Merry Month of May,” in which fundraising for the World’s Greatest Shave has been an integral part of the activities. Liliana said the students are “very exposed to it at school,” and she is currently studying the formation of cancer cells in biology class.
“Ok, it sounds cheesy”, she said, “but it’s so great seeing a community come together, you know?”
Her original goal was to simply raise around $1000 but with the flood of support she increased her goal to $3000 dollars, and impressively gathered the money within a week from classmates, friends, parents and teachers.
“So many people have been so generous,” Liliana said.
According to the Leukaemia Foundation, 31 Australians are diagnosed with Leukaemia, Lymphoma or Myeloma every day, and “These blood cancers can affect anyone, of any age, at any time.”
“You never really imagine something like that,” she said.
“You can’t fully understand it unless you get it or someone you know gets it,” her wisdom resounds through her 17 years as she contemplates some of her friends’ own suffering from Leukaemia.
“Everyone you meet has a cancer relation,” she said.
One of Liliana’s friend’s boyfriends, Matt* was diagnosed at the age of 17, he is now 18 and in remission. “It just came up, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma; there’s not a high survival rate”. It was “a shocking discovery,” Liliana recalls.
The leukaemia Foundation runs many, consistent fundraisers globally, as blood cancers specifically, “can’t be prevented and because treatment usually lasts longer than for other cancers, there’s a greater impact on emotional, physical and financial aspects of life”.
“I felt so liberated, it was insane,” she exclaimed soon after shaving her head for the cause.
Heather Graham, or ‘Graz’, as Liliana and her friends call the Hedges House administrator at the school, has been a key motivator throughout Liliana’s efforts. Heather herself is a cancer survivor, only discovering a tumour by chance during an unrelated medical check-up. Her positive attitude is inspiring at the least, after her first treatment she said to her daughter, “Let the adventure begin”.
Liliana sees her every day between classes, as ‘Graz’ would “always check in with me on the sponsoring, and was so supportive,” Liliana said.
“She gave me the best advice; it’ll grow back, it’s just hair,” she recalls.
Heather says that “Everyone’s quite different, need different kinds of treatments” and that the research needs the integral funding the public raises year after year.
“I’m always surprised about the amount of fundraising that goes on,” Heather said.
Fortunately for the foundation and the sufferers this is evident as the combined efforts of people like Liliana are gradually succeeding in wagering the devastation cancer can wreck upon individuals and their friends and family.
*(Matt) Young person’s name changed to protect identity.