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  • Haley
  • 19th Apr. 2018

CanTeen shaped who I am

It’s hard once cancer has entered your life. Because once it’s in, even if you’re in remission, it never truly leaves you.

When I was in my last year of high school, I took a bad fall off a scooter. The pain in my chest gradually worsened and a lump developed on my right side. My GP thought it was a broken rib and that I just needed to wait for it to heal. Fast forward three months of pain, an X-ray and multiple tests, I was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma.

Never in a million years did I think it would be cancer, not at 17. I was diagnosed two weeks shy of my 18th birthday. A grapefruit-sized tumour was in my chest and had spread to my right lung. It was an aggressive form of cancer so I had to begin treatment almost immediately. I barely had time to comprehend how drastically my life was going to change.

Struggling through treatment

Whilst I underwent chemo for 10 horrible months and surgery that removed four of my ribs and right lung, my friends were starting university in different cities, so I was extremely isolated. Because of this, I developed depression and really struggled through treatment, which I completed in 2010.

Walking into the unknown

After treatment, I had to come to terms with how cancer dramatically changed my life: from what I’m physically capable of, to my future goals, including my ability to have a family of my own. I’m quite different to other people my age, because of what I’ve been through.

Any pain or discomfort can bring thoughts of relapse; any news of friends who have lost their battle brings survivor’s guilt. That’s why for me it’s so important to have those people who have walked the journey too. Those are the friends I found at CanTeen, and one of the many reasons why CanTeen made a massive impact on me.

No judgement. No cotton wool.

I first became involved with CanTeen when one of the Youth Support Coordinators convinced me to attend an activity with other members just after I had started treatment. Not long after that I was hooked. CanTeen was a place that felt comfortable even when I looked sick. Thanks to the safe and caring environment created by the members and staff of CanTeen, I could let go of everything that was happening.

Sharing my journey helped me to heal

I loved CanTeen so much that I quickly became involved in local leadership; I loved being able to meet with other young people and make plans for the benefit of others going through what I had been through. I discovered that I loved speaking about my journey – it helped me to heal, and gave me a bigger purpose.

I swiftly moved from local leadership to the CanTeen National Board. I was able to attend international conferences, world-class training and even facilitate national workshops. I was Vice-President and a board member for seven years before “aging out” and becoming a CanTeen Alumni in 2017.

CanTeen has shaped who I am

The support and development I received during my time at CanTeen not only pulled me through the most difficult times but also shaped who I am today. CanTeen helped me see my life beyond cancer and gave me countless opportunities to grow my own potential and lead others.

I will forever be thankful for CanTeen for the impact it has had on me and countless others, and will be its strongest supporter for years to come.