Maddy should have been swept up in the excitement of graduating high school and starting her adult life. Instead, she was facing the shocking news that she may not have long to live.
‘I had noticed a lump in my pelvis. I just thought it was a cyst, but it was a tumour. You don’t ever think it’s cancer—why would you? They gave me a 4% chance of making it past three months.’
A shocking diagnosis
Maddy’s cancer journey began in 2015 when she first noticed a small lump in her pelvis. She ignored it, thinking that it was just a cyst. But it continued to grow. ‘I had noticed a lump in my pelvis. I just thought it was a cyst, but it was a tumour. You don’t ever think it’s cancer—why would you?’
‘The October long weekend I had prepared to go to my good friend Emily’s, we decided to make it a beach catch-up time. The first night at Em’s house I saw that the lump on my groin had doubled in size. The colour of my skin around the lump was purple and yellow.’ The next day Maddy noticed her symptoms getting worse and realised it might be more than a cyst. That very afternoon her Mum took her to the emergency. ‘The radiologist began to go over the lump on the screen, it was the oddest-looking thing I had ever seen. It looked like a black ball. At that moment looking at the screen, I knew I had something bad, real bad.’
Two days later Maddy was called in for the results of her biopsy. It was the moment she heard a word that would forever change her life; cancer. Maddy was diagnosed with a rare childhood cancer, one that typically affects 23 Aussies a year, Rhabdomyosarcoma. ‘Doctors told me it was Stage 4, almost terminal and I most likely only had three months to live. My body was deteriorating.’Although Maddy had been told that her chances of survival were slim, she was determined to be in that small four percent window. ‘I thought, this is not my life, my life does not end like this.’
A glimmer of hope
After enduring 8 weeks of intense chemotherapy, Maddy’s tumours were responding to treatment. ‘When those first scans came back, they were miracle-like for me. It had shrunk by more than half. Even my doctor did a double-take. I told myself at least now I know I am heading in the right direction and not living each day not knowing whether I will be here tomorrow; I still have a long road ahead, but I will get better.
As Maddy came to the end of her treatment, she felt isolated and was grieving everything that she had been through. This is when she came to CanTeen. ‘CanTeen offered me opportunities that were life-changing. I was able to connect and felt a part of a family.’ After a long seven months since her diagnosis, Maddy and her family got the news that they had been hoping for. ‘My scans came back clear; At first, I didn’t believe it, it was really awesome!’
Hope for the future
It has been three years since Maddy was given such a slim chance of survival. She has gone on to write a book about her journey through cancer, and what she has learned from the experience. ‘I have a high chance of relapse, but I want to live my life the best I can and not with fear and doubt.’Young people like Maddy challenge and inspire us and are the reason why Bandanna Day is so important. Because of our supporters like you, we are able to provide young people with the opportunity to connect with others going through similar experiences, access to professional counselling, and most importantly support when they need it most.
‘I made friends that will last a lifetime and was able to connect with them on levels that I can’t even describe. CanTeen offers life-changing opportunities that help young people deal with cancer, heal from memories and get support. CanTeen changed my life.’ Like Maddy, no young person should have to face cancer alone, which is why we need your help. Please join us this Bandanna Day in showing young people around Australia that we are in their corner when they need it most.
Make a difference in the lives of young people, like Maddy