Sometimes life throws you curve balls, the kind you never expected. Mine came in the form of a breast cancer diagnosis in 2019. It was just after my thirtieth birthday and I found a lump, while in Vietnam.
'It can’t be cancer' I assured myself, I’m far too young to get cancer. I was soon headed to Europe to start work in the busy summer tourist season ahead, but it wasn’t to be. On my return to London, I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Not only was the lump cancerous but I had been told it had spread to my bones. I was told I had one chance and one chance only to fight this. I was told I was going to die.
As I walked from the doctor’s office in London, with a heavy diagnosis on my shoulders, the year ahead absolutely terrified me. The words that no one wants to hear, let alone when they are 30, had been delivered to my face. When I returned to Australia, I started all the medical treatments, but I knew that to beat cancer, medical treatments wouldn’t be enough. I would need to fight cancer with everything I had, by supporting my physical and my mental health, through support that must exist somewhere.
On my first day of chemotherapy, I sat in the chair on my iPhone calling around to search for support organisations. I didn’t know anyone that had had cancer and I wanted to connect to people who could tell me everything was going to be okay. That’s when I found The Wesley Choices Cancer Support Centre (Choices). I dialed the phone number, and walked into the building at The Wesley the next week.
Throughout my treatment, Choices proved invaluable. When I needed a shoulder to cry on, when I needed advice to make treatment decisions, when I needed someone who could understand, who actually got it - Choices was there. The connections and the help available was a huge part of my recovery. The team at Choices supported me every step of the way and the lovely support from the other people that go to Choices means I’m always in touch with people who know what’s its like to sit through chemo or across from the oncologist.
Without valuable fundraising from incredible organisations like Dry July, Choices wouldn’t exist. That would mean that my treatment would have looked a lot different, it would mean that I wouldn’t have the healthy life I have now. At the end of treatment, my scans came back clear – something most people weren’t expecting. Dry July raises funds for Choices and other organisations that help to support people whose lives have been turned upside down by cancer. By signing up to Dry July, not only are you doing something incredible for own health but you are making a difference in the community, by providing funding for valuable organisations that truly do make and difference and change people’s lives for the better.
Through my diagnosis, one thing was very clear to me, that I wanted to help people like me. I was now in the group, the group no one signed up for. The group we never imagined we would belong to. The cancer group. I’ve been inspired by those around me, those that helped me, strangers that showed me kindness when I needed it most. Organisations that were set up for people, just like me. My experience with cancer has taught me not just to survive, but to thrive and it’s brought me back to my passion for people and wanting to help make a difference.
Now that I have a clean bill of health, I want to give back to the community in any way that I can. By helping support organisations like Dry July and Choices. By advocating for people affected by cancer, especially in 2020 when many of our events and fundraisers are cancelled.
Life did indeed, throw me a curve ball, but Choices helped me knock it right out of the park!