I don’t know about you, but I always thought I was some kind of indestructible force; that the world was my oyster and mine for the taking. Well, at least that’s what I used to think until about four months ago. It’s called cancer, and boy oh boy does it test you.
I’ll never forget the first time to doctor told me. ‘It’s not as good as what we hoped,’ he said.
As soon as those words were said out loud, all the little things seemed to no longer matter. Before this moment, my life was so consumed with exactly what every other 20-year-old uni student’s was. My everyday thoughts would include: ‘I should probably start that assignment’, ‘how many packets of two-minute noodles do I have to eat this week to be able to pay my rent,’ and ‘which bar should I go to on a Saturday night’? But all of this no longer mattered. They seized to exist. All I could picture was the grim reaper coming to get me, chasing me down a dark alleyway and his scythe slicing me in half.
My first GP visit happened after a persistent pain in my leg wouldn’t go away. It got to the point where every step I took, I felt a sharp stabbing pain through my knee and up my thigh. I was referred for an MRI and this unknowingly began my ordeal of medical treatments and appointments. Halfway through what started off as a routine MRI, the radiographer came in to tell me that more tests needed to be done right away. Over the next two days I was poked and prodded like a pincushion and put into every type of X-ray machine you could imagine. They ranged from one that looked and sounded like a jet turbine, to one that made my mouth taste like metal, to another that I wouldn’t recommend for the claustrophobic.
Four months on and two surgeries later, two plates, 16 screws and a cancer-free donor bone from the bone bank now lies where my cancerous femur was. Life is slowly getting back to normal — at least this new sense of normal I now know. See I’m one of the lucky people who have been able to beat this terrible illness, and trust me; it’s not something I take lightly. Blue skies seem to be just that little bit bluer, freshly brewed coffee tastes just that little bit better and time spent with those I love is just that little bit more special.
My future now is something I’m taking day by day. This new sense of normal means changing my everyday life. I used to be an avid runner, competing in half marathons and fun runs, however my new knee will not support my old passion. My knee now has a 100-degree bend and that is unlikely to extend further. Looking after my new leg is my priority. It will last for anywhere between two years and 15 and then I’m on the knee replacement road. I now have been on crutches for over 120 days, not that I’m counting. I still have roughly three more months to go before I will be walking unassisted. This has subsequently led to month’s worth of physiotherapy. I still require regular testing for the next five years to make sure that the cancer hasn’t spread and to keep an eye on the new knee.
My focus is now on my recovery, and to find the more important things in life, I don’t sweat the little things anymore. In a weird way, my cancer experience was like a good clean out of my closet, it made me realise how special the people are who were there for me, how unimportant those who weren’t, that materialistic goods mean nothing and I am so much stronger than I ever gave myself credit for. So far I’ve raised over $3,000 for the ‘Worlds Greatest Shave’ to find a cure for leukemia and will be shaving my head today to raise awareness for cancer. Be aware of your body and the changes that go on. Don’t think that you’ll be the exception or that your age doesn’t matter. And most importantly, don’t take life for granted.