My cancer story


Hi everyone, I’m Leilani and here’s my cancer story...

I was 20 years old studying at uni, had a job at my dream company and although I was stressed I was feeling great. You know, the about to graduate and start my adult life type of feeling? I had a set plan for the next few years of my life. But then it came, it started with a hard lump near my shoulder.

I saw my GP who told me to do an ultrasound in 4-5 weeks but he said it was nothing and will subside.....It didn’t. The lump got much bigger. 3 weeks later, the ultrasound technician told me to show the doctor my results now and come back the same day for a biopsy.

The day came to see my doctor for the results. My brothers and mum came. My family wasn’t expecting it, I wasn’t expecting it (thinking positively maybe). I walked into that room, I sat down, and the doctor said “Leilani, you have non-hodgkins lymphoma”. I didn’t know what that was. Then he says “do you know Delta Goodrem? She had something similar”. I remember that day so clearly. Mum asked him if that meant I had cancer. He said yes. Then mum being the greatest mum she is immediately went so what are the next steps, is it treatable, refer us to the best specialist. I didn’t cry at the clinic, I was shocked maybe. In the car, I tried to hold it in so they wouldn’t notice. I didn’t want my mum to feel more sad. I sat behind my brother who was driving so I worried he would see me (I only learnt this later on but he said he did see me cry and was crying in the car as well when I was).

Then came the tests, staging and chemo. I was diagnosed with stage 3 non-hodgkins lymphoma. I remember trying to stay strong and show I was happy to my family because I was trying to protect my parents, I knew they were obviously sad so I didn’t want to add onto it. For me personally, I felt it was harder on my parents than it was on me because they had to watch me go through the pain but they actually wished they were taking my pain instead of me. Then my hair started shedding so eventually I decided to shave it so I wouldn’t look like Gollum and wouldn’t have to see it shed on my pillow, in the shower or when I brushed my hair.

My chemo was 7 hours each session and as a bonus, my veins were soooo difficult that it took 4 attempts each time for the needle to stick properly. During it all, l avoided my darker emotions and tried to stay cheerful to get through it all. I felt so thankful and lucky I had my family there, especially my parents who were there for me through it all.

Long story short, I was poked with endless needles, have permanent scars, dealt with not knowing I would survive, got chemo for 4 months, then I got so sick I ended up confined in hospital and oh I spent my 21st birthday in hospital (my parents and nurses surprised me and sang happy birthday which was sweet though). I learnt alot, my view on life and how I live it has changed. During this whole thing I felt horrible, sad, happy, thankful, exhausted, loved, sick and everything in between.

I had my last chemo in early 2017. Now I’m 23 and I’m blessed to be in remission. Today I finally felt ready and wanted to share my story 2 years later. I struggle to talk to my friends about what I went through especially the real and sadder parts since it is such a heavy topic and often they don’t know how to react, most people still don’t know I even had cancer.

For anyone reading this who has had cancer, has cancer, had or has loved ones with cancer, or is affected by cancer in any way, I’m sorry, I know it sucks - I’m sending virtual hugs and well wishes your way.....