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  • William
  • 21st Oct. 2021

"I felt like my parents would always be around to support and love me."

William was 21 years old when his life changed. His Dad was diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma, and only a year later, he had died.

“My Dad was diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma, as it had spread to his lungs. Unfortunately, the treatments he was given were not effective.”

"He deteriorated over the space of around a year, until he died."

William’s family and social life changed. He had to support his Dad while his Mum was at work and live with the uncertainty of what each day might bring.

“Dad’s illness cast a shadow over my entire life at the time. I sometimes had to stay home to look after him while Mum was at work. He was completely dependent on others at some points.

“The worst part was not knowing how much longer he had left, so I lived with all this uncertainly not knowing if this week or today would be the ‘end’.”

William felt the impact of cancer every day as he supported his Dad and family. But it was losing his Dad to cancer that changed his life.

“He was a very active person, so it was painful to watch him slowly lose his appetite and huge amounts of weight. He was constantly coughing and for most of the last few months of his life, he was bedridden as didn’t have any energy. It was horrible watching him just lying in bed, unable to do any of the things he enjoyed. Eventually, he was taken into Hospice and passed away a week later.”

“I was so shocked and devastated. As a young person, I felt like my parents would always be around to support and love me, but my dad’s cancer took that away from me. I didn’t really know how to cope with it, and I couldn’t understand why his treatment options were not effective.”

William was referred to CanTeen a couple of months after his dad had died. He found support from a Psychosocial Support Worker and individual counselling support.

“At the time I was dealing with feelings of grief and didn’t really understand what I was feeling. I felt like I needed to talk to someone who understood as a young person what I was feeling.

“Canteen’s one on one counselling was crucial to helping me understand my grief process and move on. It also encouraged me to be more open about my experiences.”

"It has been great to have someone to talk to who I feel really understands me.”

William also joined Youth Worker led peer-to-peer events to connect with other rangatahi who had been impacted by cancer and CanTeen’s leadership programme.

“The recreation activities have been heaps of fun and it’s been a great way to spend time with and meet new people.

“I attended the leadership camp in Christchurch. It was an amazing opportunity to meet other leaders from across the country. Aside from it being heaps of fun, I really enjoyed meeting and interacting with the other leaders.”

CanTeen’s leadership programme helps rangatahi develop their skill sets and encourages them to take up leadership opportunities within CanTeen and beyond.

“Everyone was very good at helping and supporting each other and just making everyone feel included and welcomed. It was inspiring to meet all these great young people who had experiences with cancer but were still able to smile and be great leaders.”