Anastassia Demeshko is no stranger to going through treatment for cancer, which is why she is lacing up her running shoes and joining in the Gold Coast marathon this July to help raise money for The Kids’ Cancer Project.
As an 11-year-old, Anastassia was diagnosed with leukaemia and with the support of her close-knit family, began regular trips from her home on the Gold Coast to Brisbane to fight her battle.
“We went to the doctor and found out about my illness on the same day as my public speaking grand finals. Ironically my speech topic was, ’life is beautiful’ and when they told me that I had to drop everything and go to the Royal Children's Hospital in Brisbane, I was quite naive, but more devastated by the fact that I couldn’t do my public speaking competition,” she says.
“I guess that kind of reflects the attitude that I took towards the experience as a whole, because I think my positivity and general approach to life, even now, is trying to look at the bright side of things and persevering when life’s challenges pay a visit.”
Anastassia says the experience helped form who she is today and has inspired her career path in health to be able to give something back.
“It was not an easy experience, but it also taught me a lot about life in a very short space of time. The doctors, nurses and everyone at the hospital who helped me were amazing and I’ve been really fortunate to have such a good support network; both at the hospital and at home. From that I guess, I've always been very grateful for everyone that's contributed to my life, and I attribute a lot of my success to the people who have helped me along the way. Particularly my family, they’re just so supportive and the absolute best.”
That strong mental attitude has stayed with Anastassia and as she balances full time study with the demanding training needed to complete a 21km marathon her commitment is inspiring.
Sign up: Gold Coast Marathon 2021
After finishing her undergraduate degree in biomedical science at the University of Queensland, including a stint at Oxford University on her honours project, she is now completing a Master’s in Public Health.
“I’ve seen how a healthy lifestyle can contribute to your outcomes for fighting cancer and so helping people understand the importance of health is something that's of great value to me. I am not sure what I will do in the long term, but it will likely be health related and I hope that whatever I do, will improve people’s lives for the better.”
Ticking running a half marathon off her bucket list is also of great importance - and The Kids’ Cancer Project is thrilled that Anastassia chose to donate the money she is raising through her run towards childhood cancer research.
“I saw The Kids’ Cancer Project on the list of organisations you could donate to and remembered the teddy bears that I was given when I was a kid in hospital. It meant a lot to me that people donated them – I used to line them up on my bed – I’m pretty sure I still have them in a box somewhere!”
Learn more: The Kids’ Cancer Project Bear Program
Anastassia says her love of sport as a kid and the challenge of pushing herself to achieve her goals is behind her decision to run the marathon.
“My health is a particular priority, as my childhood experience emphasised that having positive health and well-being shouldn’t be taken for granted. For that reason, I’ve always been quite conscious of what I'm eating or how I exercise – knowing what the side effects of treatment are, I want to treat my body well considering what it has been through in the past. I push myself but I also know when to take it easy – everything in moderation, right?”
“It might sound cliched but when I'm doing a long hike or some long endurance exercise, I think of my past experiences and what I've been through. And it does help me, mentally and physically, to think of what I am capable of – I've been through difficulties in the past and I know running a marathon isn't going to be anything that's too terrible compared to what I've already experienced.”
Anastassia started with an initial aim of raising $1,000 and quickly reached that as friends and family stood behind her inspiring goal.
Discover: Anastassia's fundraising page
“I think it is so important to raise awareness about the work organisations like The Kids’ Cancer Project do and I am more than happy to be able to give something back.”
“I was so pleased with the response I got from my family and friends so I’ve raised my target to $2,021 because the half marathon is 21km, it is the year 2021, and so the goal has a nice ring to it. We are not there yet, but I’ll probably increase the goal again if we reach this one before July!”