21-year-old Hannah Millbrandt was born a perfectly healthy baby, and for the first several years of her life she grew up perfectly healthy—then she turned seven years old, and shortly thereafter found out she had cancer. She was unable to comprehend what was going on, but she began to worry immediately after she saw her father Bob crying.
Her mother Teresa took her to the doctor’s office. Despite the fact Hannah had no symptoms apart from a cough, she went for a scan. Later, Teresa brought the family together and announced that Hannah had a tumor on the lower part of the spine that could be terminal, and that was the moment her father understandably burst into tears.
Hannah’s life changed from that point on. As her mother instructed, she had to wear a mask to protect her from germs. Teresa was a home-care nurse and prescribed her daughter’s medication herself. Hannah felt awful after she started to take them, often suffering from headaches.
The little girl couldn’t play with the other kids or even ride her bicycle. She felt bad about the way other people looked at her because of her illness. Her mother came to Hannah’s school to explain how sick her daughter was and to instruct them what to do in case of a seizure.
The small community of the Ohio town where Hannah’s family lived organized themselves and raised funds to pay for the little girl’s expenses, which her mother claimed were huge. People prayed regularly in the church for Hannah while her mother told her that she was her million-dollar baby. But all Hannah cared about was staying with her family—at her fragile age, death had no other meaning than being separated from her parents. For obvious reasons, that genuinely scared her. She wanted to sleep in her parents’ bed, but Teresa did not allow her to do so.
Hannah found it strange that her mother became distant, but her father used to compensate via the attention he gave to his little girl. He had to be away on business trips often, but he tried to make time to take her to regular appointments at the hospital; however, they were always cancelled. Teresa and her mother took little Hannah to the “appointments” instead, and they took the girl for ice cream every time, and Hannah remembers how sleepy it made her feel.
Later, Teresa told her daughter that she does not remember the trips to the hospital because of the medication they gave her. She told Hannah that the bandages she had on the base of the spine were placed by a nurse called Beth, who was monitoring her chemotherapy. Beth apparently used to come often, but Hannah did not see her even once; she only woke up to find a new bandage every time.
Hannah used to love her long golden hair, until one day she was terrified to see that it was shaved during her sleep by Beth—it was because of the chemo, at least according to her mother. When the devastated little girl asked if her hair would grow back, Teresa said that it wouldn’t. Can you imagine how the poor child must have felt?
Her friends at school were crying when they first saw her; soon, she started wearing a hat. The teachers even organized a “Hats for Hannah” day, when all children also came with hats on to support their friend, and each kid donated five dollars for her procedures.
The local paper wrote about Hannah’s case, and people started donating even more. The church gave Teresa $7,000, and one teenage girl confined to a wheelchair donated all the money she saved for her own treatment in the past nine years. Soon after that, Teresa told her daughter that she has only a few weeks to live, which completely broke the little girl’s spirits. All her mother did was send her to counselor for some support, and he made Hannah draw heaven as she could imagine it.
Teresa used to enjoy the fact that everyone knew her and her daughter, unlike Hannah—who hated the attention. One day a teacher at Hannah’s school saw that her hair grew back normally and became suspicious, so she filed a report at the family service department in town. Not long after that, Hannah’s parents and her grandmother were arrested.
Teresa admitted her guilt and was accused of fraud – she had collected more than $31,000 from the local community. After sending her to a psychiatric clinic, Hannah’s father was released on bail, but he was happy to know that his little girl was not sick. However, Hannah had to be given to a foster family, so she justifiably felt alone and confused.
A few months later during the trial, Teresa pleaded she was mentally ill, but an evaluation by a mental institution decided this was not the case, so she received a six and a half-year prison sentence.
Hannah’s father Bob insisted on being innocent, but he agreed with the child endangerment accusations and went to jail as well. His mother-in-law was accused and found guilty of theft.
Despite being too little to comprehend what had actually happened, Hannah knew that her mother did something very wrong. Teresa never apologized or gave some kind of an explanation for her actions.
The misfortunate girl spent a year in foster home until her father’s sister—Aunt Sue— fought for custody. When Hannah turned fifteen, her Dad got out of prison and the pair reunited. She told him that he went to jail without being guilty, but all he cared about was that he got to be with his little girl again. As it turned out later, he pleaded guilty because he was told this it would be the only way his sister could receive custody of Hannah; he was under the impression that he would only be sentenced to six months of probation, but apparently the judge decided on something else.
Hannah is currently a student, and her desire is to be a social worker so that she’ll be able to help kids under foster care. The young woman’s only wish is to support victims of abuse such as herself and to make them believe that there is always hope.
About a year ago while working as a waitress, Hannah was told that a woman was looking for her, and she realized it was Teresa. She told her mother to get out—she did want to be close to her even for a second, because she literally robbed her of her childhood. That is truly something that cannot be forgiven.