Hi. I’m Renee Shaw and I live in Western Sydney. I’m a nurse, a university student and I’m a bit of a crazy dog lady.
I went through cancer treatment in 2018-2019. It all started with abdominal pain and what everyone thought was appendicitis. I remember thinking appendicitis was SUCH an inconvenience. Then I got the news that made me wish it was appendicitis. I had stage 3 cancer. I was diagnosed with GIST which is a rare sarcoma that grows on your digestive system. I was meant to have three years of oral chemotherapy but a few months into that, we found out I have a classification of GIST that makes it treatment-resistant. The only treatment that is considered effective at the moment is surgery. So I’ve had a few surgeries and with that comes lifestyle changes that you don’t really expect as a young adult.
I have an amazing team of doctors and professionals that work towards my physical and mental wellbeing, but it was difficult to find other young people that I connected with. Having cancer as a young adult is a different experience to other age groups and cancer is this space that is really difficult to navigate and connect with people.
I remember being in the lift at the cancer centre and a person asked if I was there to visit a grandparent. I then realised I was somewhat isolated in my own treatment centre. The lift doors opened, and I saw a sign that said to email Canteen. I did, and it was the missing piece that I needed.
I had a safe space to vent any feelings or emotions with professional counsellors and social workers. They provided me with the right tools and resources to navigate cancer as a young adult. They taught me how to tell people I have cancer, how to understand my own emotions towards it and how to navigate it with my family.
I went to a bunch of events and made instant connections with so many others who just got it. Through Canteen, I made friends with other young adults who had had cancer impact their life in some way. Canteen was a light in what felt like a dark and never-ending tunnel.