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'I was in year 6 when cancer first knocked at our door.'

Laura Morrissey, 19, has provided her story in recognition of CanTeen’s 30th Anniversary this month. Laura wants to help support CanTeen’s vision to double the number of young people it supports by 2017.

Cancer has followed me from primary school to university.

I was in year 6 when cancer first knocked at our door.

My brother and sister were in high school around the corner from our house, so they got home first. I came inside and everyone was sitting around the table. I was the last to find out. I didn’t feel like they were telling me Dad had cancer. I felt like they were telling me he was going to die.

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“I felt like they were telling me he was going to die.” (Image: Supplied)

He morphed over the years to come, see-sawing from skinny and long-faced to puffy cheeks and tummy, where the cancer was invading his kidneys and spreading.

About a year after Dad was diagnosed, the doorbell rang again.

This time, cancer came calling for my 16-year-old brother.

We were away on a family holiday when Nathan dropped to the ground with a seizure. With no history of epilepsy, it took lots of visits to different doctors to figure out the cause.

Nathan had brain tumours. Plural.

I turned 13. Then 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19. Each birthday, cancer was still in my family.

Being a teenager is already tough in itself. But when you live with the extra burden of cancer, it forces you to look at things differently. The family dynamics change and you are forced to mature really fast.

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“Being a teenager is already tough in itself. But when you live with the extra burden of cancer, it forces you to look at things differently.” (Image: Supplied)
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Dad fought hard. He got a bit better, and even went back to work. But then he would need time off again. He cycled between the two for over four years. Finally, it took away his oxygen and landed him in ICU, where he just couldn’t fight any longer.

Cancer took my Dad when I was 16, and is now lying dormant in my brother’s brain. Waiting.

On my mum’s advice, I got in touch with CanTeen (I think maybe a counselor had told her about it). A lot of people think CanTeen is just an organisation for young people who actually have cancer; but they also understand the impact a close family member’s cancer has on a young person and how devastating that can be. And they’re there to help.

Related: Beautiful proof you don’t have to be religious to be charitable.

Through CanTeen, I’ve met other young people going through similar cancer experiences. It’s been so important and comforting to know that I’m not alone, in what I’m experiencing, that someone else is thinking what I’m thinking, and feeling what I’m feeling. Your other friends just don’t understand what it’s like, but people at CanTeen get it.

I’ve also had other support like being able to talk to my CanTeen counsellor Jess. She helps me deal with my grief and I can share thoughts and feelings with her that I just can’t tell other people because it might upset them.

There are so many things I’ve learnt through my involvement with the organisation over the past six years, but the most important thing CanTeen helped me to develop is sensitivity. To never ignore or to forget what has happened, but how to move on with life with hope and positivity.

Cancer forces you to step up. You have to pick up the slack, and play a bigger role than you might’ve liked. There’s no hiding.

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But once you learn the skills to cope, you don’t need to hide anymore.

You want to keep yourself OK so you can help others at the same time. I can be a better sister, daughter, friend, and student, because I had the support of an entire group of people who knew exactly what it was like for me at the time, and is for me now.

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“I can be a better sister, daughter, friend, and student, because I had the support of an entire group of people who knew exactly what it was like for me at the time, and is for me now.” (Image: Supplied)

My brother is now 23, and waiting to go through chemotherapy and radiation shortly to treat a now active tumour.

We both are actively involved with CanTeen, and want to help other young people as much as we can no matter what happens.

While we are on different journeys dealing with cancer, we unite in positivity and we will eventually beat it.

If you know a young person close to cancer, make sure they know about CanTeen.

It could make a world of difference to a young person because cancer is different in a young person’s world.

If you know someone aged 12-24 who has had their world turned upside down by cancer, tell them CanTeen is there to help. Through CanTeen, young people learn to cope with their own cancer or cancer in their families and can connect with others their age going through the same thing. Visit www.canteen.org.au, email [email protected] or call 1800 835 932.

For more posts like this one, see:

How reading alive can change children’s lives.

If Pippa can take one step, you can take 10,000…

The innovative gift cancer patients really appreciate.

She took a picture of her breasts to prove how hard it is to spot cancer.

 

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