The Cancer Patient Experience - From Child to Adult (A Victorian Leadership Team Blog)

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Cancer can invade our world at any stage of life. It puts a pause on our life’s progress and demands sacrifices we never could’ve imagined. This post shows the perspectives of four cancer patients and where they were in life when they first heard the diagnosis “cancer” slip from their doctor’s mouth. However, it also illustrates which methods were greatly important to them in finding their new ‘normal’ in their post-cancer world.

As a group we have each had different cancer experiences and would like to share what we went through, the age we were at and the things that helped us. 

Lena  

Having had cancer at the young age of 7 I found that distractions were a great thing. Not knowing or having a full understanding of cancer I feel was in my favour at the time, I had people looking out for me. At 7 years old a child is expected to be running around playing in parks, with friends and having a carefree childhood; this was swiped from me; however, I found my ways around this. Playing on my Nintendo DS, messaging family and friends on MSN Messenger and reading books. I remember having a game that I played for hours and hours on end and having my parents or a nurse telling me to put it away and sleep, of course I didn’t listen! Having access to a computer to message my cousins on MSN who were in high school at the time brought a smile to my face. 

When I came home from hospital I was able to rest, recover and be in my own space. Seeing friends when they came over to see me, watching movies and just being comfortable at home helped me a lot when I was going through my treatment stages. 

Annabelle

Cancer can be something that is concealed, the memories of your past obscured by the hopeful possibilities of the present. Yet, when cancer leaves you with a physical disability, the scars of your past can no longer be kept hidden. I was 14 when my cancer journey began. I was eased into this journey since I was first diagnosed with a non-cancerous mass in my hip. However, after four removals and the continual return of an aggressive tumour, the final diagnosis came back as an osteosarcoma: it was cancer. At 14, I was immersed in sport, playing club netball, inter school basketball, and casual badminton. Not to mention I was headed for high school and wanted to get by hidden amongst the crowd of students; turning up to school in the middle of grade 10 in a wheelchair is not what I had envisioned. I decided then to take up new hobbies: I swapped chemistry for visual art (an outlet I found so mindfully refreshing), I read to my little high schooler’s heart’s content and most of all I found solace in the family and friends that surrounded me. The life I returned to after cancer was scarily different, but there was a light of hope around every year’s corner.

Lucas

Cancer at 18 is tough. Alongside treatment I faced missing out on a major year in my life and being the only 18-year-old in hospital. One night in hospital, I remember hearing a group of young people out partying, joking around in between clubs/bars. Hearing this, all I wanted to do was be back into my normal life and enjoying being 18. 

Though when that moment came, I found friendships didn’t feel the same. Everyone had experience that I didn’t and although friends were frequently visiting me in hospital, I was trying to “catch up” to them. 2 years had passed and I was still struggling, but through Canteen I learnt to accept that life had changed and by living in the moment (not in the past), I can enjoy life and create new memories. This didn’t mean forgetting everything that has happened but to embrace what is ahead of me.

Rita 

I was 22 when I started my journey with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, hearing these words “you have cancer” my life was forever changed, there is no guide that tells you ‘how to deal with cancer. each one of us has his/ her own journey. I was struggling with chemotherapy and what was the best treatment for me. Due to many treatments not working, I thought my life had ended and even if I survived, I no longer wanted to live.

However, some of the things that helped me were simple and available to anyone such as YouTube videos, I used to listen and watch Jordan Peterson talks. And talking to my counsellor from Canteen every few days who helped emotionally and practically. Expressing my fear and the uncertainty helped me to understand and so find ways to overcome what I was feeling. The most important thing is to ask for help and there are so many ways that we can help each other. 

Cancer is something which can affect us at any time in our lives. The way we process and cope can be shown in different ways as we all find different things help us at different times in life. We all find having the support of family, friends and other loved ones help us greatly. Some found sources of entertainment such as games, reading, movies, tv and online resources helpful for them during their struggle with cancer. What has helped you with your cancer diagnosis, treatment and post treatment periods? What did you find not so helpful during these periods? 

If you feel comfortable, we would love to hear what has helped you as well as what you’ve found did not help you as much. You never know, you may be able to help someone else struggling through their cancer battle!

Thanks for reading our blog post, we have loved having you here!

This blog has been written by the Victorian Youth Leadership Team, and is based on our own thoughts, feelings, experiences and ideas.

We know that dealing with cancer in our worlds can be challenging, and maybe this post brought something up for you that you would like some help with.

So, we would like to take this opportunity to remind you of a few supports that can help:

-  A Canteen Connect counsellor is only a click away, by pressing the big orange “CHAT TO A COUNSELLOR” button at the top of your screen (between the hours of 10am-10pm AEST Mon-Thu, 10am-6pm AEST Fri and 11am-6pm AEST Sat-Sun).

- Your main contact at your local Canteen Office (Within business hours).

- Kids Helpline online at https://kidshelpline.com.au or phone 1800 55 1800 (24/7).

- Beyond Blue online at https://www.beyondblue.org.au or phone 1300 22 4636 (24/7).