Sydney teenager, Alex, shares his cancer story in his own words.
I'm Alex and I’m 16 years old and I live with cancer every day.
I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) one of the most common childhood cancers when I was nearly fourteen. I was in Year 8 and aside from school, was busy hanging with my friends and playing rugby union and league on weekends.
The first sign anything was wrong was when bruising on my back didn’t go away.
A week later, the bruising appeared more prominent, so Mum took me to the GP who did some blood tests.
It was Mother’s Day 2013 and the test results obviously weren’t good because we spent the rest of the day in hospital. The following day I was told I had cancer.
You don’t believe it at first. It took me a while to realise I was the guy in hospital being treated for cancer. I only realised I had cancer when I overheard my mum and a nurse speaking about the chemotherapy that I had received. I looked at them and said, “Chemo? Chemo is for people who have cancer”.
After seeing the look on Mum’s face it hit me and everything just shattered. It was like this realisation. I felt ten times crappier than you can imagine feeling and I don’t recall speaking.
And then your life just changes forever. You roll with the punches and being treated for cancer becomes all that you do.
I had platelet transfusions straight away, then bone marrow aspirations, a central line put into my chest to receive the chemotherapy and the list goes on. Sixteen months of treatment followed.
It was early in term two of Year 8 and I didn’t go back to school that year. I missed the first three terms of Year 9 and a pretty big chunk of Year 10 too.
The treatments can cause loads of side effects and I was able to catch every single side effect known to man. I am not kidding. All the fine print, all the things that can happen did happen.
So while I had beaten my cancer officially in June 2015, I was dealing with the after effects kids with cancer can suffer. I’ll give you some examples.
As part of treatment I was given steroids. Now, steroids are not what most people think of steroids, where you get big and strong. Instead you get fat and hungry. I would have drunk oil with salt, if it was given to me, while on steroids. It was that bad. The steroids damaged the blood supply to my joints and I’ve had to have hip replacement surgery on both hips.
I started Year 11 this year and am back on my feet and ready to face anything that comes my way. I’m dealing with pain management and rehabilitation.
Think about how bad cancer is for some kids and how much one thing that you can do, can dramatically change someone else’s experience.
It might be someone you have never met. But think about if it was your brother, your sister. You’d give as much as you could and then some.
The treatments for cancer are really harsh and leave life-long effects. I’m living proof. Research is looking into better treatments to change this. Thank you.
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