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Rebecca
  • Rebecca
  • 13th Feb. 2018

I had survived cancer. So why was I so afraid?

I looked like a normal twenty year old, like I was fine and everything was better. But everything wasn’t fine. I desperately needed someone who understood what I had been through.

My whole life got tipped upside down

I was 19 when I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL), a type of blood cancer.

The side effects of the treatment were harsh after chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. Nausea, tiredness, fatigue, mouth ulcers, weight changes and hair loss became an everyday, normal thing.  It was tough.

When I was in hospital, a CanTeen Youth Support Coordinator came to see me, but at the time I was too scared to meet new people because of how I looked and how I felt.

Everyone assumed I was fine

Recovery took a long time. As I wore my wig after treatment, from the outside I looked normal, so people assumed I was okay. Lots of people would say, “You’re looking good”, when in fact I would feel tired or exhausted.

Once I was in remission and wasn’t distracted by treatment, I began obsessing that my body might reject the stem cell transplant. I would hear stories about people relapsing, and it terrified me. I became overly cautious because of my fear of germs and of getting sick.

 

My family could tell I wasn’t coping well and encouraged me to get help. Initially I got mad at them for even suggesting it. But before I started uni again, I realised that talking to someone wasn’t such a bad idea, because I was bottling everything up and exploding all the time.

CanTeen gave me my confidence back

I decided to attend my first CanTeen programme, a weekend away with other young people affected by cancer. I was so scared going on it, because I didn’t know anyone. I ended up having a huge panic attack on the first night and wanted to go home. But by the end of the weekend, I didn’t want to leave.

 

The programme gave everyone a chance to let go of the emotions they were holding and to realise we’re not alone. It was the start of helping me get my confidence back and realising that what I was going through was normal.

I started going to more CanTeen events and it was through CanTeen that I got professional counselling. It’s given me tools and strategies to help overcome my anxiety and manage my fears about the cancer coming back. Having those coping mechanisms was very empowering and a big step forward for me.

CanTeen made me feel safe again

It has now been three years since my transplant.  Although getting cancer really sucked, it brought CanTeen into my life.  They helped me understand that what I was feeling after my treatment was normal and that I could get help. CanTeen has made me feel safe again, helping me regain my independence and giving me confidence to get on with my life.