The inspiration - Shandar Kristen Smith

Born at 5-50am August 4th 1988 at Royal Brisbane Women's Hospital, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, weighing 6lb 5oz.

Shandar was never going to be anything but slim because it was always difficult to get her to eat anything. At 9 months of age she decided crawling hurt the knees too much and took her first steps. From there she was never to stop to wonder why things happened - she just did them.

Shandar's early years were in the company of adults only and she grew with a maturity well beyond her years. At the age of 4 she could no wait to visit the hospital when she was told of the birth of her sister, Tiana. She arrived at the hospital and just wanted to hold her little sister.

Pre-School was around the corner and Shandar was ready. It was here that she met one of her many life-long friends. He was special as his mother later became her sponsor and Godmother when confirmed at school. Shandar commenced school at St. Finbarr's in 1994 but never liked change and took a little while to settle, but the presence of her friends helped her to adjust and eventually she became an academic achiever and a keen sports person.

Not long after Shandar commenced school, she competed in the State Titles in Artistic Roller Skating, for which she had a natural talent. Her first competition had been only three weeks earlier and she had taken gold medals at the local level, but she surprised everyone (except her coach) by winning gold medals in both the events she competed in and becoming State Champion in her age group. Shandar continued winning medals in artistic skating until she saw speed skating and decided that this was going to be her sport. Again she progressed quickly through the ranks and was selected in the Queensland team to skate at Nationals as the "Baby" of the team. Her efforts were rewarded when she teamed with another junior and a master skater to win a bronze medal in the Open Women's Relay - a national open medal at 11 years of age. Her skating ability was to be proved when she flew to New Zealand in February 2000. Although Shandar had been sick on and off since Christmas, she competed in this major competition, to be placed fourth. Not a bad result considering she was diagnosed with a brain tumour within 48 hours of her arrival back into Australia.

On March 7th 2000, Dr. Scott Campbell, together with some very talented surgeons and medical staff at Royal Brisbane Children's Hospital, successfully removed the tumour and weeks of intensive radium treatment commenced to combat the cancer. Severe sickness and loss of hair showed the first cracks in the internal strength of Shandar. However she fought on to battle and recover, only to relapse in October 2001. The tumour grew in the bone marrow in her hips - a very rare occurrence. Shandar agreed to chemotherapy and proclaimed that she would not let it beat her and fought it again.

During this ordeal, Shandar attended school at Mount St. Michael's College. With the support of her many friends from both school and skating, she did win again and went into remission in May 2002. Shandar did not seem to recover as well this time around, but recommenced school full time. Unfortunately she was not able to skate again due to the weakness of her body after the relapse.

On the 6th of February 2003 Shandar was told that the cancer had regrown. For the first time in her life, her maturity cracked as she wept openly with her mother. Even though the news was such, she returned to school to continue her learning while her health allowed her. Her attendance was brief as hospital visits punctuated her timetable and eventually tiredness meant she slept much of the day. As each day passed she got weaker, but spent her days outwardly brave, but worried about becoming a burden on her family.

Shandar commenced Year 11 in 2003 with enthusiasm and looked forward to her time ahead with her friends. Unfortunately, the disease would not allow this and she was hospitalised finally succumbing to her terrible illness on 24 February 2004.

Shandar's inner strength was the part that made her so special, and her legacy is that this strength is given to others as she fought with all her might, without giving up hope, and always looking to the future.