My involvement with CanTeen began in mid-2012, shortly after my diagnosis with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Having received a brochure from the hospital social worker, my mum quickly signed me and my two brothers up. However, it wasn’t until my first camp later that year that I started to fully understand the significance of having an organisation like CanTeen to support me. One of the most memorable moments from that first camp was sitting about the dining table one afternoon laughing about treatment rooms and side effects with other CanTeen members; it was the first time I had really been able to connect with friends my age who truly understood.
In the weeks following my first camp, I learnt that my treatment hadn’t worked as expected. This realisation meant a lot of changes, including a new hospital, new city, and new doctor, along with an extra 12 months of intensive treatment. However, through all of these changes and bumps along the road, CanTeen was there to offer support for me and my brothers with recreational days, camps and counselling.
Nowadays, I am cancer-free and studying a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree in my home town of the Gold Coast, having graduated with Bachelor of Medical Science in 2017. I have continued my involvement with CanTeen as an active member of the QLD Youth Cancer Services Youth Advisory Group, Youth Ambassador and now Director on CanTeen’s Board. These roles have taught me about the importance of consumer representation in healthcare, whilst allowing me to make meaning from my own cancer experience and ensure the sustainability and improvement of cancer support services.
I used to think that only by becoming a doctor would I have the power to help others and make a difference. However, with the support of CanTeen, I have learnt to use my patient experience and leadership skills to make positive changes for young people living with cancer. With this sense of empowerment, I no longer see my medical degree as authorisation to make a change, but rather a tool to help me do so.