Hello, my name is Jemille. I live in Bendigo, am a uni student, and the middle child of three. At a glance, I have a standard life. In reality, my life has had to have been built from the ground after it all crashed down in 2009.
I was a young 12 year old girl jumping off the bus of school camp. I’d made friends, had fun, and couldn’t wait to see everyone again. What I didn’t know was that after stepping off that bus, my life would change forever. My mum was waiting there, rushing me to the car. After jumping in, I noticed that my older sister Sinead was in pain with what we thought was appendicitis.
So I was dropped off at home with my younger sister Anelise, while my Sinead and mum went to the Bendigo Hospital.
I waited for a call to be told what was happening, only to be met with a week of tests, Sinead being moved to the Royal Children’s Hospital, and lots of waiting. A family member took us down to hear the news. I walked in to people crying. Sinead had cancer. A 15cm tumour of a 1 in 1 million form of cancer in my liver. At the time, I didn’t know what it meant, so I naively assumed that she’d have it removed and we would return to daily life. How wrong I was.
After the news broke out, my life became one of isolation and despair. I was treated differently by everyone, known as the “girl who’s sister has cancer”, rather than “Jemille”. I had my mum and Sinead away in Melbourne all the time, so I couldn’t go to any parties, sports, and other events. And I was the one who cooked and cleaned, while also trying to keep up with schoolwork. I had nothing to look to and just wanted to disappear. At the same time, Sinead’s chance of recovering was getting thinner.
The high of spending time with Sinead was, however, short lived. By December, Sinead was really unwell. She was going to die. And in early January, she passed away.
Without Canteen and my new made friends at the time, I would have been absolutely lost. And in the aftermath, from the grief, to dealing with family member reactions, they have always been a message, call, or post away. Because of their support and the opportunities they have given me, I am here today as a strong individual who does not feel isolated and unimportant in the world. So much so that I have taken up opportunities of leadership in the organization to give others a chance to develop and become empowered. They have been the mortar to rebuilding my broken life. And if you are going through similar, I really can’t recommend reaching out enough.