ANZA is supporting the launch of the inspirational story, The Book of Hat, at the New Zealand High Commissioner’s Residence, Friday 30 June. Read the story behind the pages of Harriet Rowland and how one brave girl’s voice can inspire many.

The late Harriet Rowland, writer of The Book of Hat

Cancer, in any language, is like a swearword. It is said with venom or through gritted teeth or gulped back through tears. Sarcomas are a particularly brutal form – like the sort of phrase you only use when anger has the better of you and that word comes spilling forth. They originate from connective tissues, can arise anywhere in the body and frequently like to lay hidden until they can do the most damage. This prevalent type accounts for 20% of all childhood and young-adult related cancers and are the most aggressive, with 50% mortality within five years of diagnosis.

It’s not a “light at the end of the tunnel” type prognosis is it? If ever there was a time to rattle off some expletives, add in several hand gestures and generally unleash primal kicking and screaming it would be then, wouldn’t it?

But there is another way to cope with this hand dealt; take inspiration from Harriet Rowland – or ‘Hat’ as she was known.

The talented New Zealander was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer which originated in her knee, at just 17.

Naturally going through treatment and countless hospital visits ostracised her from her friends, and so she found that loneliness – shared by many cancer sufferers – was something else to battle too. Until she read John Green’s novel, The Fault in Our Stars about a protagonist called Hazel Grace who talked honestly about living with cancer. Like her fictitious heroine, Hat discovered that there was still happiness to find in her life.

Throughout her journey, she kept a blog, My Experience of Walking the Dog, which has since been edited into a collection of her posts called The Book of Hat. Her tone of voice, which transmits through the page, shows not only her writing talent but also the attitude with which she faced her illness. She candidly talks through tough situations with humour and courage and is a pure inspirational read.

Harriet entered the Mary Potter Hospice, Wellington two days after her book launched, and died surrounded by her family and friends on Friday 7 March 2014.

The Book of Hat is being launched in Singapore on Friday 30 June at the New Zealand High Commission with all proceeds going to Kick Sarcoma, the Sarah Grace Sarcoma Foundation.

Dr Grace Moshi, herself a sarcoma survivor and founder of Kick Sarcoma, the Sarah Grace Sarcoma Foundation.

Registered in Australia, and now in Singapore, the Foundation’s mission is to advocate for increased research to find new and better therapies with which to treat Sarcoma patients. Their objectives are to raise awareness so that early diagnosis reduces the devastating impact, and to raise much-needed funds.

As sarcoma widely affects children and young-adults, complaints about aches and pains can be attributed to growth spurts or sports injuries from school – but there could be a much more sinister reason.

Treatments of sarcomas – still mainly surgical – are costly, often ineffective with extremely high morbidity and mortality. Survival rates have not progressed in the last decade. These forms of cancers are still not well-understood. Founded by Dr Grace Moshi, herself a sarcoma survivor, the charity is at the forefront of research studies. The John Curtin School of Medical Research has benefitted from the fundraising efforts and celebrated a breakthrough this year. The team in the labs there have discovered a molecule that can block sarcoma mestastases (the spread of the cancer to secondary locations) and next stages are being implemented.

By supporting Kick Sarcoma, and initiatives like this, there is hope that a voice such as Hat’s won’t have to be heard from beyond the grave. That we can finally tell cancer where to go.

Read an extract from The Book of Hat in the July edition of the ANZA Magazine.

To get involved, ANZA members can attend the launch event at the New Zealand High Commissioner’s Residence for the membership price of $100. The cheese and wine reception and poetry reading is all in support of the Kick Sarcoma charity, which is benefitting from the sales of The Book of Hat. The first 100 guests to RSVP to the event have the opportunity to receive a copy of the inspirational book. Click here to sign up.