Things moved very quickly when Leah White found a lump on the back of her daughter Bianca's head.
As she told a Child Cancer Foundation charity auction dinner hosted by Professionals Hutt City and La Bella Italia restaurant last week, she thought it might somehow be related to the tonsillitis the three-year-old had endured earlier that year.
But within the space of a few days, the family learned it was leukaemia and Bianca had undergone her first blood transfusion and cancer drug treatment.
''It was an unknown world for us.
''One of the hardest things was the feeling we had lost control of our lives. From then our lives would be dictated by medicine schedules, hospital visits and a lot of unexpected things thrown in for good measure,'' Mrs White told the audience of about 100.
Bianca, who looked up at her mum as she occasionally fought back tears at the memories, was wearing a necklace of 1,320 beads, which ''tell her story of courage'', including 652 days of chemotherapy, 170 nights in hospital, 47 blood product transfusions and 142 injections in addition to the chemo.
Bianca, now 8, finished treatment two years ago, but doctors do not officially consider her ''cured''. She will be monitored closely well into adulthood, may be at greater risk of other cancers because of some of the drugs used on her, and is also being checked to see if the powerful treatments may have affected her concentration and memory.
For the Whites, who were grateful for the support of the Child Cancer Foundation, a lesson was ''you can't control what happens in life, but you can control how you handle it''.
Pictures drawn by Bianca and her little sister Katie were amongst items auctioned on the night by Professionals Hutt City owner John Ross.
MC Diane Cummings said just over $10,000 was raised from the bids and dinner tickets on the night, and Professionals staff expect another few thousands was raised in the street appeal they ran last Friday.
Bidding for a Phoenix football shirt signed by defender Andrew Durante, donated by Hutt News, reached $440.
Auction bidding was also spurred on by a moving speech from Dean Gifford. A policeman who worked for 14 years as a general duties officer in Lower Hutt, Mr Gifford was 36 when he learned he had a brain tumour.
Far from using his sick leave to mope about, the 2011 Wellingtonian of the Year stepped up his efforts to get together money, toys, pharmaceuticals and other goods to ship to poor communities in the Solomon Islands.
Whenever he goes into Wellington Hospital for chemotherapy or radiation therapy, he makes a point of visiting children in the cancer ward to offer words of encouragement. He also convinced Hasbro Toys to make substantial donations of playthings for the ward, with one consignment alone worth more than the hospital play therapist's entire annual budget.
Unfortunately, Mr Gifford recently learned his cancer is back.
The generosity of several bidders on the night was remarkable. They paid hundreds of dollars for accommodation and dinner at The White Swan in Greytown, a picture framing package and photography session and then donated it all to the Gifford family.
o People willing to help the Child Cancer Foundation can send a text to the number '206' with the word 'bead' in the message field, to make an automatic $3 donation via their phone account.
- Hutt News