I remember the day clearly. I was walking down the intimidating hallway towards my specialist’s door and I knew the news wasn’t going to be good. I was told that I had chondroblastic osteosarcoma (bone cancer). It was one of the hardest things I ever had to accept. It was all a blur when I was told the news - it was a very dark and devastating time for me. I was 19 years old, at the prime of my life. The diagnosis was not only traumatizing for me, but also for my family.
After being diagnosed, I knew the hardest part of it was about to begin.
I received a lot of chemotherapy over 12 months and spent heaps of time in hospital. Side effects were a major problem at the beginning of treatment. I didn’t know what to expect - they hit me all at once which really took a major effect on my body. Unfortunately, due to the number of cycles I had to undergo, my body basically got used to the pain and just accepted it, which made it all much harder.
The whole journey was also mentally challenging, but I kept it all together to stay optimistic not only for me, but for my family, who I knew were hurting just as much. We worked together as a team to ensure I got through this horrific disease. We came into this journey as one and thankfully, we definitely left as one, thanks to the help of many.
The Sony Foundation 'You Can' Centre was a key part of my journey. It was a helpful place for me and my family to have while I was going through the hardship of treatment. The centre is a separate, special space away from the wards just for young people, where I was able to meet many other patients my age - some on and some off treatment. These connections helped me to continue to stay positive, knowing there were other people like me and that things do get better. The support services based in the ‘You Can’ Centre and run by the Victorian & Tasmanian Youth Cancer Service (ONTrac at Peter Mac)
helped me stay in Uni, keep as fit as I could working with exercise physiologists to rebuild my strength and provided various support to deal with a lot of the practical things.
What people don’t realize is that the impact of cancer stays with you for much longer than your time on the wards. Over those 12 months, I missed out on university, working and playing footy – all the things I love and that I need to do for my future. But I’m proud to say that despite my year of cancer treatment, I’ve managed to keep up with my accounting degree at Latrobe University thanks to the team at ONTrac
who organised everything for me while I was receiving treatment so I didn’t need to stress over it all.
Since my treatment finished on the 1st February, my goal is to resume a normal life and to cherish every moment I have, as from what I experienced, you just can’t take life for granted as you just don’t know what’s around the corner. I hope that one day no one my age will have to face cancer, but if they do, I hope that they have a You Can Centre, the opportunity to meet other young people they can relate to and the important support services that can help us to be not just survivors, but the person we had hoped and dreamed to become.
People tell me when I finished treatment that I was a hero. I’m no hero. I was just a 19-year-old wanting to survive and pursue a successful life. The people who helped me survive are the heroes.
Without the support I was provided, it’s hard to imagine where I would be now. I couldn’t have done it without the support from my social worker all the way to my exercise physiologists. I couldn’t be more grateful to know that I’m one of the lucky ones that had access to a You Can Centre.
Although cancer has taken me to hell and back, it’s definitely changed the way I look at life and taught me that the small things should never be taken for granted. God gave his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers.