Hannah Tate was diagnosed with cancer last fall, the day before her 18th birthday. Since then, she’s been sharing her now 10-month-long journey with cancer on Instagram, documenting the good days and the bad.
“I definitely think that I should share my story with everyone else because you never know — you could be helping somebody,” she said.
She’s battling Wilms’ tumor, a form of kidney cancer usually found in children much younger than Hannah.
WBIR first shared Hannah’s story in March, when a celebrity stylist surprised the teen with a wig for her senior prom.
Since then, Hannah has graduated from Alcoa High School and won several awards for her spirit and courage.
She also underwent more chemotherapy.
“I was getting ready for college and everything,” Hannah recalled, sitting on her front porch Tuesday morning with her mother. “I was looking forward to being finished with all my treatment.”
Just last week, however, the Alcoa teen and her mom LaVetta Spann received bad news from doctors at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.
“They came in and said, ‘Well, the chemo’s not working and your tumor had gotten bigger,'” Hannah said.
“He told her that he was sorry, that, ‘We can’t cure your cancer,'” Spann said. “I’m looking at Hannah, I said, ‘Are you OK?’ She said, ‘Yeah, I’m OK.’ So I said, ‘Well, I’m OK, too.'”
The future is uncertain, though doctors say there may be other options.
Hannah, however, said she’s drawing strength from her faith in God.
“I know he’s got me, so I don’t have anything to worry about,” she said. “God just has a plan for all of us and a plan for me that’s not for anybody else, and I’m just going with it.”
She also turns to social media, where she has developed a support network of virtual strangers from all over the country.
“So many people are encouraging me to keep fighting and keep going, when sometimes it may feel like I don’t have the strength to,” Hannah said.
“She has some special people following her that, you know, that just want to do something for her,” Spann said.
Those special people include Renee Anastasia, who came to know Hannah through Instagram.
On Tuesday, with WBIR’s cameras recording, Anastasia delivered some big news to Hannah via a FaceTime phone conversation.
“So, we have a surprise for you,” Anastasia said.
“Oh, boy,” Hannah said with a laugh.
Anastasia handed the phone off to Henry McNabb, who is the head of the D3 Foundation, a non-profit organization that teaches kids basketball and life skills.
“We’ve been working on a big surprise for you,” McNabb told Hannah. “We’ve been gathering a few NBA players, a few NFL players, a couple entertainers and we’re going to do a big celebrity basketball game for you.”
“Wow! Oh, my goodness!” Hannah said, her eyes wide with surprise.
The event is called Slam Dunk on Kids Cancer Celebrity Game, a fundraiser in Hannah’s honor that will raise money for childhood cancers.
“We have Terrell Owens, he’ll be there,” McNabb said. “Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe, just to name a few. But it’s going to be a great event.”
It’s a fitting honor for Hannah, who played high school basketball until she no longer could, with cancer.
Event organizers are flying Hannah down to South Florida later this month for the celebrity basketball game charity fundraiser.