The post below was originally written as a speech for You Can's Wharf4Ward event on October 26, 2017
When someone hears the word "cancer", they don’t think of a sixteen year old girl, with long brown hair, wearing booty shorts and ugg boots. They don't think of someone who has just come home from playing for NSW in a volleyball tournament up in Queensland and they certainly don't think of someone who, the day before diagnosis, was at the beach playing with friends. I don’t even think about that. Well at least I didn't. I didn't until that sixteen-year old, long haired, booty-short-wearing, volleyballer was me.
It started off like a bad joke. Two nurses, a doctor, an oncologist and a social worker walk into a room…
That bad joke quickly turned into a rapid-fire round of diagnosis, treatment, fertility options and introductions to people I never thought I’d ever meet. The Leukaemia that had taken over 95% of my good cells was a silent killer, and I had just caught it in the act.
I remember my first night in the hospital, there was a family across from us. The girl, just a year older than me was being treated for a hard hitting, nasty leukaemia. Our cancers were at opposite ends of the scale, mine, low risk ALL and Ceren’s high risk AML. However, me and Ceren clicked instantly, we would message every day, she was like my older sister, who helped me through the hard times and the even harder.
On December 3rd, 2016, Ceren passed away, I know she is in a better place, away from all the drugs and needles, but I miss her every single day. I miss Finn, a little boy who earlier this year passed from an aggressive brain tumour, and whose classmates should never have had to form a guard of honour so his casket would make it safely to his final resting place. But I know, that although they left all their family and friends, they would be free from pain, where one would be playing with Lego and the other, eating McDonalds Sundaes.
Although there is loss, there is also gain, and through my time in the hospital I have met so many people along the way.
But just like Batman needed his Robin and Winnie the Pooh needs her Piglet, I felt like I didn’t have my partner-in-cancer-crime. That was until, late January when I met Zoie. She had the exact same Cancer and we were similar ages with similar interests. I had finally found my Piglet.
My friendship with Zoie is so important to me. I know it sounds like I have a kindergarten crush, but since meeting we have always supported each other. We can talk about central lines, side effects, roid rage, chemo brain, hair loss - and who kissed who on the bachelor -because she gets it and so do I. Although my friends from school were supportive and tried to understand as much as they could, I still felt so alone sometimes, and that is why Zoie is so important to me!
Zoie and I will still be in treatment for more than a year. Being on oral chemo, and having to have regular blood checks means that we will be in every single month until we ring a big massive bell that every cancer patient rings to symbolise the end of treatment. Can I just say, I will not just be ringing that bell, but absolutely blasting it off its hinges.
However, until then, all those check-ups and blood tests mean waiting around. And trust me, I have waited around for a while, and there are only so many morning shows you can watch. So when Sara from the You Can
crew told me that there is a new centre opening to entertain us in New South Wales, I almost and I mean almost said "A new Ward? I’d come in all the time!"
From four months ago, where I was being literally dragged into the car to go to the hospital, to almost willingly going- that’s a transformation in itself! I am so excited to be able to meet new people, play games and do other fun stuff,
instead of listening to another infomercial about a robotic vacuum that sweeps up everything on the floor.
It has been exactly a year today that I heard the "C" word…
and I am on the right side of it now, the side where I can tell anyone and everyone that I am finally and truthfully feeling good. For nine long months, I swore I saw glimpses of the so called "light at the end of the tunnel", and when I finally got to it, the light was so so bright, overwhelmingly bright.
That bubble that surrounded me for so long had been finally popped, and for a while, I wanted to climb back into that metaphorical bubble and re-seal it.
I remember my first day back at school, and falling down the stairs just before leaving to go, and just sobbing. Looking back on it, it wasn't the fall that hurt, but the realisation that I was ironically so far away from the hospital and the people who surround it.
When I tell people, that in late June, I was completely bald, refined to a wheelchair and just coming of intensive treatment for leukaemia, they look at me and are speechless.
I haven't said this out loud, but although I have a long way to go from that long haired, NSW volleyball player, I am so proud of myself.
From not being able to get out of bed with the help from my Mum, to getting out of bed, getting dressed and going to school for a whole day.
Like I said before, my Mum was the one who literally and figuratively got me out of bed in the morning. My dad, who worked every single weekday, no matter how stressed would come home and still try to make me smile. Sometimes he failed, more times than not actually, but the fact that he did not stop until I had a small smile on my face means more than anyone can imagine. My brother, bared all that roid rage, he copped the "you're so annoying" and the "you're actually deciding whether to go to school or not" rants. But through all this I am so grateful and forever thankful that my brother and parents never left my side.
Zoie, I, and every other kid out there who has ever had to go through this sincerely thank you. 50 years ago, we might not of made it, and I may of not been able to stand here and tell you all about my experience. To the researchers, the oncologists, the nurses, the parents and the people who fund everything from finding that potential cure for cancer, or funding a You Can centre
: Thank you and let’s make sure that anyone affected by cancer not only has a partner in crime but a You Can centre too!