In 2009, at the tender age of 13, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Previously I had been a picture of perfect health. I was a very fit person, always engaged in sports such as shooting goals on my netball team and moving around in dance class.
When I started to miss goals and feel dizzy, my family and I felt something was off. I was also constantly bumping into walls, corners and chairs. Concerned, we decided I should visit my doctor.
After six months of doctors visits and tests, we were told the news. Very quickly, I was removed from my ‘normal’ life, away from friends and school, and put in a hospital bed.
This was a very tough time for me as I had just formed my friendship group and had begun establishing my own identity.
Following a successful eight-hour surgery to the brain, four months of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation to the brain and spine, my prognosis was positive.
Still, during that time I was very susceptible to germs, so I had to be kept in an isolation room. Being away from society affected me psychologically and over the few months, I felt as if I had lost touch with reality.
Losing my hair was also a big shock – especially at that age when a lot of girls are fixated on looks. When my doctors first told me about my hair I was devastated and I cried all day. Cancer already takes so much away from you. I didn’t want it to take my identity too.
I ended up getting a free wig from Cancer Council. I think their wig service is really important. It wasn’t until I tried on my first wig that I thought ‘It’s okay’. There are people out there who will support me, find the right wig for me and I’ll feel beautiful. When I’m wearing my wig I just feel like everyone else and I can be who I am.
I’m really happy to say that my treatment was successful. I’m now 22, I have a boyfriend named Josh, and I’m also doing well at university. I’m studying a Bachelor of Psychological Science.
While I’m forever grateful for having survived, I deal with the side effects of treatment in my everyday life. I’m a very able person but have ongoing fatigue and lack of concentration. This meant it has taken longer for me to complete my studies as I need to study part-time.
Research towards brain cancers is highly important to me, as I have experienced the debilitating effect that it has on a person and their family.
Through increased research and awareness, I hope for a future with a cure, so no one has to experience what I did. Research is vital for progressing knowledge on diagnosis and treatment to help those with cancer have a brighter future.
Whether it's helping people today, or being there for those who need it tomorrow, every minute, every hour, every day, Cancer Council is here for all Victorians affected by cancer.