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New Member Directors join the CanTeen Board

1 Nov, 2017

New Member Directors join the CanTeen Board

The annual general meeting of members of CanTeen was held at our branch office in Christchurch on 18th October 2017. We had recently recruited three new Member Directors and were pleased to announce the appointment of Jess Hamilton from Auckland and Matt Young and Mona Ahelemo-Vulu from Wellington to the CanTeen Board.


Jess Hamilton 

Hi, my name’s Jess. I’m a 24-year-old patient member of CanTeen.

I was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer called Adamantinoma. As this type of tumour is very rare, there was no clear treatment path for me.  It became apparent that chemotherapy would not be effective. I went through multiple surgeries to treat the tumour and reconstruct my bone with the hope of walking again.

From the start, I had such a passion for CanTeen and all that it stands for. Interacting with other young people who were going through similar traumas and intricate changes in all aspects of their life helped me get through mine.

I am excited and humbled to be a part of helping CanTeen on a national level to assist the continuity of the organisation in fulfilling its purpose to support, develop and empower young people living with cancer. My energy is fuelled by seeing potential in people and ideas and doing my best to support them in succeeding, which I most certainly want for CanTeen. The fostering of a clear succession path for up-and-coming leaders will further enhance the sustainability and input from members into the organisation for years to come and makes CanTeen all the more special.


Matt Young

Kia ora, my name is Matthew Young. I’m 23 years old and have been a CanTeener for over four years now.

I am also a bereaved sibling member. My sister Hayley was diagnosed with a Ewing’s sarcoma on December 28, 2012. We joined CanTeen together after her treatment had started in earnest a few months into the new year. We were visited in hospital by one of CanTeen’s Youth Support Coordinators who, at the time, was just one of many visitors and we became members with very few expectations.

Fast forward one very tumultuous year and Hayley died in April 2014. I have been lucky to discover a family in CanTeen since. Above all, that is what CanTeen represents for me: family. People who have stuck by my side through grief and through personal re-evaluations that tend to follow such events. So many of them have laughed with me, cried with me and been a part of my personal growth over the previous few years. Some of them have even jumped out of a plane with me!

Although probably a no-brainer it’s true to say that there are few causes I support as much as CanTeen simply because there have been very few occasions in life where I’ve experienced the love and connection I have here. I identify with our mission because I’ve experienced the power of it.

In truth we’ve got a ways to go before we fulfil that mission, to see no young people going through cancer alone, but I am ever so excited for some of the work currently underway in CanTeen. Providing camps and member leadership opportunities are huge parts of the member experience and both in their own way really important support tools. I look forward to seeing these aspects of CanTeen really come alive again in the near future.  I am in awe of Listen Up, CanTeen’s advocacy campaign group, and I am passionate about developing more culturally inclusive spaces for us all.

These are all pieces of work which are ongoing around here and I hope together they will provide a growing number of people with an amazing experience of love, support and community as they journey through CanTeen, much as I have experienced in my time here.


Mona Ahelemo-Vulu 

Hey, I’m Mona, a 23-year-old patient member of CanTeen.

I was diagnosed with parosteal osteosarcoma (bone cancer) when I was 20. My treatment plan was to hit me with round after round of intense chemo, remove the tumour in my leg and hit me with more hard chemo, just for good measure. That went pretty much according to plan, except instead of losing just a tumour, I lost my leg through the knee. But, y’know, plans need compromise.

I’ve been a member of CanTeen since 2014. I had heard some good things about the organisation, but all I really knew was that they sold bandannas and helped cancer kids. I assumed I was too old, but a nurse told me otherwise. So I went to the CanTeen office in Wellington and introduced myself.

It was a good thing I did, because one of the most helpful things CanTeen has done for me is connecting me with people who can relate. As great as my friends and family are, you can’t really grasp what cancer is like until you unfortunately experience it for yourself. At CanTeen, we rely on each other for guidance and companionship. When we talk about cancer, it’s not to feel sorry for ourselves. It’s to encourage others who are going through it, so they know they aren’t going through it alone.

I may have lost a leg, but I gained a family. Totally worth the trade.

CanTeen has given me so much and I love giving back in the form of my time and dedication. In joining the board, my focus is on the member experience. Decisions I vote upon are made with them in mind. After all, our organisation exists for them.

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