Cancer started in Franki's life before she was even born. Franki's older sister passed away at the age of one due to a rare cancer mutation and sadly so did her dad from a bowel cancer diagnosis. Franki's family decided it wasn’t just a coincidence and because they were a big family with nine siblings, they all made the family decision to get tested for a cancer gene called Familial Adenomatous Polyposis. All the boys in the family received a negative test result but three out of the four girls returned a positive result, including Franki and her two sisters. Sadly, Franki's oldest sister was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2012 and passed away in 2019 when Franki was only 18 years of age.
"It's a waiting game for us." - Franki Hudson, youth ambassador (pictured rar right with her two sisters)
Growing up with cancer in your life
From the age of 12, Franki started to get regular checkups and scans every 6-12 months to ensure no tumor developed. When Franki was 17 years old she had an ultrasound on her thyroid and unfortunately, when Franki was at school, the doctors phoned her mum to inform her they had found shadowing.
"We pretty much didn't need to have the word thrown at us to know it was cancer."
The minute Franki and her mum received the phone call, Franki was in and out of school and had to travel from her home in South West Rocks to John Hunter Hospital for treatment every two or three days. Franki also had multiple days off school because the treatment made her feel unwell, so she missed the first six months of her HSC year which had huge social and educational impacts.
"It was a lot mentally to be out of school for so long and have a scar on my neck. We have a saying in our family that cancer is like sand to the beach to us because it's always been there, and no matter how much we try and get rid of it, it's not going away."
"It's made us realise that we have to be grateful for every day and every moment we have together."
My Canteen journey
At 14 years of age Franki went on her first camp with Canteen, the 'great Aussie bush camp' with her brother and younger sister and was able to build connections with other young people who understood what she was going through.
"From that moment I knew Canteen would be a massive part of my life. As I set foot in Canteen, I knew I didn't want to be anywhere else. You are around people who know what you are going through, and you can say to each other; 'hey ,it sucks, but we’re going to go through this together and we’re going to be okay'. I love the support I have received from staff and other young people at Canteen and the opportunites that have been provided me to allow me to share my story and help support others."
'Smell the Roses'
Franki has been involved in Canteen leadership opportunities for nearly five years which has allowed her to develop the skills required to help others by sharing her story.
As National Bandanna Day's youth ambassdor, Franki designed her own bandanna called 'Smell the Roses' to represent her cancer journey and view on life. Franki chose the colour yellow as a predominant feature because it's bright and brings positive energy, while the roses symbolise the view that no one should take advantage of life because you're not promised tomorrow.
"This year I designed my own bandanna, 'Smell the Roses'. I made this bandanna to remind myself and everyone that life goes by too fast and that we all need to stop and smell the roses sometimes.”
Franki's bandanna will be available to purchase on the online shop in August.