Hannah

"I am brave, and you can be brave also." 

Hannah created a “cancer commercial” to help other kids who are going through cancer treatment.

Hannah Higgins had been having abdominal pain for quite some time. Though she had been seen by a pediatrician, her dad, Josh, brought her to the emergency department where he works for imaging scans. The scans showed large tumors, and Josh immediately thought it was cancer.

Hannah was transported by ambulance to Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, where she received a diagnosis her father had feared. Hannah had bilateral Wilms tumor (also called stage 5 Wilms tumor), a type of kidney cancer that occurs in both kidneys. She would need surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Hannah had her first surgery to put a port in and started chemotherapy right away, which lasted for six months. She then had radiation to her lungs and flank, followed by surgery to remove her left kidney and part of her right one.

Hannah’s most recent imaging scans, performed nine months following her treatment, show no signs of the cancer. But she will need scans for a few more years to determine if she’s cancer-free.

Her mom, Kristen, is grateful for Hannah’s care and for all the staff who helped her. “We are lucky to have a children’s hospital here,” she says. “The Pediatric Intensive Care Unit did everything to make us comfortable. There were great hematology/oncology nurses; they got to know Hannah and knew what her idiosyncrasies were. And she loved her child life specialists.”

During her treatment, Hannah seemed to understand her situation and knew what was needed to fix it, even though she was only 5. And she took a matter-of-fact approach throughout her ordeal. During her radiation treatments, for example, Hannah began singing her heart out, all while staying perfectly still. The anesthesiologists were shocked, as children her age usually require sedation.

Kristen explains what contributed to Hannah’s mindset. “We did not shield her,” she says. “We said, ‘These are the steps; here is how we help you. It’s not scary; that’s where you need to be.‘”

One day, Hannah told her parents that she wanted to do a commercial to explain to other kids what they can expect when going through cancer and show them how brave she has been. She shares her story and a powerful message in a video, which was posted on YouTube.

"If you have cancer, don't worry," the 6-year-old says. “Cause I am brave, and you can be brave also."

Watch Hannah’s Personal Commercial

Originally published September 2015