The day my mum received world-flipping news, I had no idea. What I thought was just another trip to the hospital turned into my mum telling me; "I have cancer. I'm having surgery to remove the tumour on Friday and then we'll start talking about chemotherapy."
My first thoughts of cancer were about death. People die from cancer - that's all I knew. My mind was in a whirlwind and even so young I was thinking everything from: "Where do I go if surgery and chemo don't work?" to "Who is going to look after my brother Jake, and how do I finish grade six without her?"
Still struggling with these questions but not knowing where to turn or how to ask them, mum connected me with Canteen. I was really reluctant at first but went on an overnight program specifically for people new to Canteen. It was the very start of my journey making sense of mum's cancer and my role in it all.
The program was nothing I expected and everything I didn't. I very quickly realised that my questions were exactly the same that a lot of other young people were asking. But instead of struggling to find the answers alone, I now had a whole group of people around my age and who had a parent with cancer who completely understood how I was feeling without having to explain it all, and without people telling me not to worry, and that it would all be okay - I didn't know that.
At this very first program I had the chance to let my feelings out in constructive way and everyone around me 'got it' instantly. These same people stayed with me throughout mum's treatment, and then after months of chemotherapy I found out she was cleared and officially in remission.
What really stays with me is wondering what might have happened if mum hadn't suggested I attend that very first program. Canteen has not only given me ways to get through my mum's cancer experience and the time to make sense of my feelings, but also an amazing group of best friends and people I know that I can rely on. I know they're all just a call or text away. And that makes me feel so supported and like I can do anything in life.
Canteen has been my rock for the past six years, and the steady thing that didn't change when everything else did. I'm so lucky that, even when life felt like it was falling apart, I knew I had Canteen's support to keep me steady, and that has made all the difference in my life.
“Canteen has been my rock for the past 6 years, the thing that hasn’t changed when everything else was”