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  • Zaynah
  • 28th Aug. 2018

CanTeen helped me to open up

I was the last one in my family to know that my Mum was sick

I was only 13 when I was told by my mum’s best friend that Mum had terminal ovarian cancer as she was driving me back home from school. I was in shock, Mum didn’t look sick at all. I also felt frustrated, lonely. Why wasn’t I told before? Why did I have to hear it from a family friend? To this day, I am still angry about it. I know my family was trying to protect me, but I was not a child. Secrets hurt more, I only had one year with Mum before she died.

I had never told anyone about Mum’s cancer

I basically shut down, I didn’t want to be vulnerable. I wanted my family to have some privacy as Mum was dealing with her cancer. After she died, my teachers were trying to help me cope – from being a straight A student, I was failing at school. My escape was drawing and poetry. I knew I needed more.

CanTeen turned my life around

CanTeen was just piloting a programme for 13-24 years olds dealing with their parent’s cancer. When I was told about it, I didn’t want to go. But my desire to escape home was greater, so I went to a meeting. It was the best decision I ever made in my life. CanTeen helped with my grief. I met some amazing people, others going through what I was feeling. I felt I belonged and I was understood.

Finding a community helped me to become the person I am today

CanTeen has helped me deal with my emotions. I won’t ever be able to truly express my gratitude to really describe what CanTeen has brought to me and my family.

Today, I am 100% focused: I know what I want to achieve, and I have learnt new techniques and leadership skills to cope with anything that life decides to throw at me.  I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for CanTeen.

The Cycle is all about life with cancer

I am very passionate about what CanTeen does and I really want to give back. I recently interned in the CanTeen marketing and fundraising team, utilising my graphic design skills. I now have a much better understanding about the importance of the fundraising which enables CanTeen to support young people like me living with cancer in their lives.

When I was asked to create the limited edition bandanna, I felt honoured and it was a way to deal with what cancer brought to my life and my family. The design of my bandanna is my story of cancer and what it meant to lose my mother at such a tender age. I call it ‘The Cycle’ as cancer made my life imperfect and I like everything always to be perfect. If you look at the specks, picture them as the cancer cells invading my life, bringing nothing to it but misery. The four hearts represent each member of my family – my dad and my sisters. We formed a strong bond around this misery and the cancer that took my mum away from us. The butterfly in the bandanna symbolises the fact that we’ve gone through a cycle before flourishing.

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