Imogen was just five years old when she was diagnosed with leukaemia. Her family were distraught but her twin sister Tennille felt like she had lost her best friend.
Imogen’s Mum was always by her side during her cancer treatment.
Tennille remembers “I would always try to get Imogen to play games but sometimes she couldn’t because she was just too sick. One night she was so sick we had to go to the hospital in the middle of the night. I was so scared.”
After a gruelling two year battle, Imogen was finally given the all clear. Her family finally felt that cancer was behind them.
But the worst was yet to come…
Three years later, Imogen and Tennille’s Mum, Heather was diagnosed with the same type of cancer Imogen had fought.
Imogen has vivid memories of the day they were told, “We were sitting in the car after school. Mum turned around and said, ‘Girls, I have cancer. ‘I just kept staring at her for the rest of the ride home. I couldn’t believe it.”
Imogen had beaten the same cancer so she assured herself things would be fine.
“My Mum is so much stronger than I am, I thought she would just fight it and get better.”
Just a few months later, the twins said their final goodbye to their Mum.
Struggling to cope with the shock and devastation of losing their Mum, Imogen and Tennille couldn’t accept the news she wasn’t coming back.
“For a long time we didn’t go into her bedroom, we didn’t touch any of her stuff, we just left it. Our Dad tried to protect us a lot. He helps us remember Mum too. She is always going to be our Mum.”
Imogen and Tennille with their Dad.
It wasn’t until a few years later that the girls found out about CanTeen. They still could not talk about their Mum’s death and to make matters worse they were even taunted at school for not having a Mum.
But when they attended a New Members Program they discovered they weren’t alone in how they were feeling and they met other young people who understood exactly what they were going through.
The friends they’ve made at CanTeen support them through difficult times.
“The people we’ve met through CanTeen get us through sad days, give us advice and the best laughs when we need them most.”
Since joining CanTeen in 2013, Imogen and Tennille have learnt strategies to manage distress, anxiety and overwhelming sadness. They also have a safe environment to express their grief and share how they are feeling without fear of judgement.
“CanTeen makes us feel like normal teenagers and has made it easier to deal with our grief.”
Imogen and Tennille have made lifelong friends.
Imogen and Tennille will continue to get the support and guidance they need to deal with life after cancer. For Imogen, CanTeen has empowered her to focus on pursuing her dreams, now she is cancer free and has her whole life ahead of her.
“It’s made me realise that there are a lot of people continuing with their lives and doing amazing things. You don’t have to just sit around and feel sorry for yourself.”
But for every young person like Imogen and Tennille who has found support through CanTeen, there are many others across Australia who are struggling to cope with a cancer diagnosis.
Please donate today to ensure no young person has to face cancer alone.