Local teen with only months to live hopes her story inspires others to appreciate every moment

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A metro teen with only a few months to live is sharing her story, hoping it inspires people to give to an organization that’s near and dear to her heart.

Hannah Viens is just 15 years old and living her life to the fullest.

“I like to do a lot of crafts and reading and my favorite thing to do is I love putting puzzles together,” Hannah said.

The teen likes to work on puzzles alone. She said it gives her time to think — mostly about herself.

“I’ve learned that I do need to pay attention to the good things about me,” Hannah said, “the good character qualities about myself, and it is OK to think about those things.”

Doctors diagnosed with brain cancer in 2014. Now, after five years of surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, doctors said there’s nothing more they can do.

“It was like a punch in the gut,” her father, Jim, said. “It kind of takes your breath away. It takes the wind out of you. You really don’t know how to think at that point.”

Hannah made the decision to leave the hospital.

“She is the one most affected by all of this,” her father added. “Of course we want her to be around as long as possible, but we also don’t want our desires to override what she wants at this point in her life. If she were younger, it would be different. But she’s in her teens now, and we feel that she needs to have more of a say in what goes on with her.”

Hannah receives hospice care at home through the Carousel Pediatric Program. The goal is to make the most of the time she has left and support her family along the way.

“I feel like it helps my mom,” Hannah said. “It helps her because she knows that people are still coming out and checking on me every once in a while, and if she needed someone to come and sit with me when I get more sick and she needs to go do something then she can just call and they will be right here.”

The carousel program serves about 45 children and their families each year. They offer a team of specialists — from a counselor and art therapist — to an on-call nurse.

“It’s not something that I ever thought I would be doing because we look at death every single day, and that’s a different aspect of healthcare, but I feel like it’s that important role that needs to be met and needs to be filled,” Hannah’s nurse Cori Jones said.

Jones currently visits every two weeks, but the appointments will increase as Hannah needs her.

“She is a very mature and a very methodical young woman,” Jones said. “She knows what she wants her healthcare picture to look like and she knows what she wants her end-of-life picture to look like. And to be involved with that, she has really opened the door and let me in.”

The two talk about Hannah’s “bucket list” — a list of places she wants to visit with her family while she’s healthy enough. So far Hannah has checked off surfing in Hawaii with Bethany Hamilton and seeing the Grand Canyon.

“Just live each day enjoying yourself,” Hannah said. “Try not to think about things that could happen or might be happening. Just enjoy each day of your life.”



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