IT’S a car trip forever etched in Rhianna Smith’s mind.
It was October 2008, just two days after her baby sister Georgia had been to the GP with an ear infection, and 13-year-old Rhianna was in a car bound for Newcastle with her dad, nanna and brother Lachlan.
“Dad just kept saying our life was about to change,” Rhianna said.
“He kept saying it was going to be really hard for a while.”
The news hit them like a jolt of electricity just minutes after arriving at John Hunter
Georgia, the toddler with a devilish smile and irrepressible spirit, had three months to live.
After presenting with an ear infection on the Monday, three-year-old Georgia had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia on Wednesday.
The family didn’t return home to Tamworth for more than eight months, holed up in Newcastle’s Ronald McDonald House as Georgia underwent a barrage of procedures and tests.
Fast forward five years and Georgia has proven doctors wrong.
She’s been in remission since 2010 and just last week was given a fresh five-year all clear.
Through it all, the family has been swept up in its own emotional rollercoaster.
“I was just really cranky at first, I couldn’t understand why it happened to her and not me,” Rhianna said.
“It’s also hard because you feel like you’ve been forgotten.
“Mum and Dad weren’t there anymore, they were always at the hospital.
“We’ve always been such a tight-knit family and it was hard.”
But it was a chance visit by children’s cancer charity CanTeen to Georgia’s bedside in 2009 that gave Rhianna and Lachlan unexpected comfort.
“They made me realise I wasn’t the only one going through this,” Rhianna said.
“We’ve been on a number of CanTeen camps and spoken to a lot of other people in our position, which has really helped.”
The three Smith siblings have continued to support CanTeen’s annual fundraising drive, Bandanna Day, and will man a stall at Tamworth’s Shoppingworld all day on Friday.