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Laura
  • Laura
  • 26th May. 2020

CanTeen has been a big part of my cancer community

Meet Laura, a nurse who was diagnosed with cancer at 22 and is now fighting coronavirus on the front-line

“I was in shock. I really didn’t expect the diagnosis to be cancer. The doctor reassured me that this type of cancer had a very effective treatment protocol and that the prognosis was good. I was relieved but, it still didn’t change the fact I’d just been diagnosed with cancer!

“Mum and Dad had come with me to my appointment and afterwards we just stood in shock in the parking lot feeling like our whole world had changed.

“I had 6 months of ABVD chemotherapy, a regime consisting of concurrent treatments, which I did for eight hours every two weeks. I had a port-a-cath surgically placed under my skin to administer the drugs and underwent fertility treatment in addition to all the scans and tests that come with treatment. It was rough.

“My nurses made sure I was referred to CanTeen and in their first contact they gave me a quilt, took me out for coffee and answered as many questions as they could. I loved that they would turn up to chemo with a bag of goodies to keep me occupied and just checked in to see how I was coping.

“CanTeen has also been a big part of my cancer community. My favourite thing about CanTeen is that it gave me a space to be ‘normal’. You can literally just drop in and hang out any time and you’re bound to meet people like you, and when you’ve got cancer it’s important to connect with others who have been in your situation. When I hadn’t really met anyone my age who was juggling cancer, treatment, a job and living away from home I felt really isolated – but I went to a CanTeen event and met seven others with Hodgkin’s and I finally felt like ‘woah, these people get it!’

“The hardest part of my journey so far has been the post-cancer experience. When everything during chemo and treatment is decided by someone else, it’s hard to go past the point of treatment. I found it hard to reconcile the post cancer me with the pre-cancer me. In theory it seems easy, but I almost felt like a fraud going back to the same house and same job I’d been in before my diagnosis. But the fun part is doing things a new way with a new outlook on life, it reminds me of the person I’ve become. I’m determined to do anything and everything because I never want to take anything for granted again. I’ve started ocean swimming, I adventure more, I just nourish my body now in a way I never did before. I figure if my body can get me through cancer, it can do anything.”

Laura is now 24, cancer-free and working as an emergency department nurse fighting COVID-19 at Middlemore Hospital in Auckland.