I’m Joey Lynch, a 25-year-old from Melbourne, Victoria who was diagnosed with blood cancer in 2008. Since my initial diagnosis, I have received almost every treatment that one could possibly receive in Australia, and have undergone clinical trials in both Australia and away from home in the United States. I joined CanTeen in 2010 on the insistence of my mother after I underwent my first Stem Cell Transplant – and was joined by my brother in the organisation in 2013.
Since then I have been fortunate enough to attend numerous programs, developed my skills as both a leader and mentor through the training opportunities afforded to me and been a blogger and poster on the CanTeen Online Support Service. I have also been fortunate to serve in almost every leadership position available to me throughout my time in the organisation. I worked in Victoria as a Program Leader, Peer Mentor, Deputy Chair and Chair and on a national level as a member of the Member Advisory Council and the CanTeen Board of Directors. Over the course of my ongoing cancer journey and through my experiences with CanTeen I have developed a keen interest in improving the lives of young people living with cancer – particularly ensuring that young people in Australia have access to both cutting edge medical treatment and world leading psychosocial support and expanding CanTeen’s reach to offspring and siblings, after seeing how much my brother’s life was improved by his involvement in CanTeen.
I have experienced the dichotomy of not having CanTeen in my life during my initial two years of treatment and having it there 7 years since and it reflected on that contrast and has reinforced in my mind just how important the principles of youth empowerment, peer mentoring and support that CanTeen espouses are. I came to CanTeen having experienced periods of both Social Anxiety Disorder and Depression, and both CanTeen’s model of empowering its young people and its tradition of support from my peers has been invaluable to me.
My defining moment as a mentor in CanTeen came on a Summer Program in 2014. I was able to sit with a younger member, who had had blood cancer like me, and was awaiting test results to see if she had relapsed after her initial treatment. Being familiar with relapses myself, I sat with her and really understood where she was coming from.Having her trust me enough to open up, to someone that she knew got it and knew what it was like for a young person was an incredibly rewarding experience and reinforced in my mind exactly why CanTeen matters so much.