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Cancer survivor, Kirkwood nursing student raises $6200 for UI Children's Hospital through T-shirt …

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Turning adversity into resilience. That’s what 20-year-old Hannah Bormann, a nursing student at Kirkwood Community College, has worked to do since she was diagnosed with a brain tumor about six years ago.

“Focusing on the positive has always been my thing, and trying to make the best of a bad situation. I’m always trying to think about how I can turn negative situation into a positive one and what I can learn from this experience, and if my experience could help other people.”

Two weeks ago, five years to the day after she was declared cancer-free, Bormann decided she wanted to do something for the hospital that did so much for her.

“I was a patient at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital,” she said. “I had to have two different surgeries to remove the cancerous tumor from my brain. And, I just felt very lucky to have come out of that and to still be here. So, I just really wanted to give back to the hospital that gave me my life back. And I wanted to do something for the kids because I know what they might be going through.”

And thus The Sunshine Project was born.

Bormann decided to design T-shirts and sell them to raise money. Her goal, she said, was to sell about 150 shirts, raising between $400 and $500. But within an hour of posting her fundraiser on Facebook, the post received more than 250 shares.

Two weeks later — this past Monday — when the fundraiser closed, more than 780 shirts had been sold and between the sales and donations, Bormann had raised more than $6,220.

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“I’m really excited about it,” Bormann said. “I was so surprised that the post reached as many people as it did and I’m totally grateful for how many people actually supported it. I was nervous that people wouldn’t even buy the shirts or that we wouldn’t raise any money.”

Bormann was just 13 when she started feeling like something was wrong.

“I was getting these extreme headaches and sometimes I’d pass out,” she said. “It would get so bad that I’d have to stay home from school and miss out on seeing my friends or participating in sports or other activities.”

Understandably concerned, He parents started taking her to doctors, some of whom dismissed Bormann’s symptoms as puberty, hormones or stress.

After two years of doctors, Bormann said she went to see a general practitioner her family had known for years.

“He was probably 80 some years old,” she said, “still practicing, still making house calls, still doing all these things that doctors 50 years ago would do and he was still doing them. He was the first doctor that actually thought I should get an MRI, and that’s when we found out that there was something on the scan that shouldn’t be there.”

The doctor sent Bormann to UI for more testing.

Bormann said the doctors told her the scan showed a mass on her brain that looked like a “glowing spot.”

Doctors couldn’t be sure it was cancer just from the scan., but they decided to watch the “spot,” rechecking it every three months for change.

“I tried not to think about it and live my life as if there was nothing wrong with me,” Bormann said. “Of course, there were nights when I would lay awake scared and wondering what next could show. The scariest part was not knowing what the next year, month, day, hour, minute, or second would bring.”

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After a year of observation, Bormann said it was time to get that tumor out of her brain, and that meant brain surgery.

Pathology showed the mass was cancerous and three weeks later, Bormann underwent a second brain surgery to remove any remaining cancer cells.

“That second surgery was Feb. 23, 2015,” she said, “and since then I have been cancer-free.”

Bormann still gets regular checkups and brain scans to make sure the cancer has not returned, and every time she returns to the hospital she is reminded of her experience.

“The hospital, the doctors, the nurses, everyone, they were just all so amazing,” she said. “They worked so hard to take the best care of me and make sure I was comfortable and had everything I needed. And every time I go back, I’m greeted with positivity. The doctors and nurses always want to know how I am doing and what my life is like now and how my family is. They really made me feel like I was more than a patient. They treated me like family.”

Since her surgeries, Bormann said she has been trying to think of a way to pay the hospital back for all it did for her.

“I just really wanted to show them how much I appreciate what they did for me and what they are doing for so many other kids as well,” she said. “And I was thinking I didn’t just want to do your typical fundraiser or Go Fund Me, so I decided I would create a T-shirt and see if people actually want to buy it. And it’s been amazing to see how supportive everyone has been.”

Bormann said the money she raised is going to the University of Iowa Dance Marathon, a student organization that provides year-round support to young cancer patients and their families. It’s big fundraising event is a 24-hour dance marathon, which will be held Friday and Saturday.

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Bormann is slated to graduate from Kirkwood Community College in May. Her goal, she said, is to get into pediatric nursing at the UI hospital.

Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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