Cancer first came into Shannon's life in 2008, when she was only 12 years old and her younger bother was just 10. Shannon had just started high school earlier that year and the cancer diagnosis of her mum was confusing and scary.
"I really just wanted to be like any other 12 year old so I pretended it didn't exist and avoided talking about it altogether. It was pretty easy to do, because my mum and stepdad protected me from a lot and it wasn't until years later that I found out the doctors didn’t think she would survive."
Shannon's mum finished treatment at the end of 2008 and was declared in remission 5 years later.
Two years on... the back pain started
In 2015, Shannon's mum started having back pain that gradually worsened and when nothing improved, she went back to her doctor and asked for a scan. Sadly the scan showed that the cancer was back, this time in her spine and because it had metastasized, it was considered stage four and incurable.
"As a 19 year old, who understood a bit more and was a little less self absorbed I knew what this meant. I was at uni, in my second year of studying occupational therapy and I lived an hour and a half away from home. I remember driving home most weekends crying, because I didn't know what the future held and I was so scared. At that point Mum wasn’t even going to make it to my uni graduation."
My Canteen journey
After Shannon’s mum was diagnosed with cancer again in 2015, Shannon decided to reach out to Canteen.
“At first, I just accessed Canteen’s online support platform (known today as ‘Canteen Connect’) and read about other people's stories in the discussion posts. Then, in 2016 I went on my first camp and met my first Canteen friend, Shalon. Shalon understood exactly what I was going through. We talked for hours the first night of camp, sitting in front of a space heater in our dorm, frozen, but not wanting to go to bed because we both had so much to tell each other. So much to tell someone else who knew what it was like. That's when I realised that Canteen was a place where people just ‘get it’, people understand, no questions asked.”
"The help and support I received and continue to receive from Canteen has been life changing."
Shannon's message to you
“The psychosocial support from Canteen has helped me talk through my fears and guilt and the camps have given me a break from the worry and provided amazing connections."
Shannon's leadership experiences have allowed her to develop her confidence and increase her self-worth.
"I know that at Canteen my opinions and experiences matter and are valued. The friendships I have developed at Canteen are strong and built through understanding and acceptance. We have supported each other through some of our hardest days in ways that other friends just can’t.”
Since Shannon joined Canteen six years ago, her mum still has the tumours on her spine and they have recently spread to her hip. As the daignosis is incurable the hope s that the treatment she's on will stop them from progressing any further and new more effective treatments will become available in the future.
"The support I've received has only been possible because of donations from Canteen supporters, thank you for supporting young people like me when we feel scared and confused and alone and just need people who 'get it’."