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Why A Cancer Diagnosis Was The Best Thing That's Happened To Me

People often say 'you were so unlucky'. I disagree.

29/06/2017 2:43 PM AEST | Updated 29/06/2017 2:43 PM AEST
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I wouldn't be where I am if cancer hadn't changed my course.

When people say "it was the moment that changed my life" they are usually talking about a dream job offer, a perfect wedding or becoming a parent.

I'd always wondered what my life-changing moment would be, but I wasn't expecting to find out at 19-years-old. I know what you're thinking -- 19 is far too young to have a 'life-changing' moment. You don't have enough life experience, you haven't met enough people. And, hello, you're still a teenager!

But two weeks after moving to a brand new city and one week into my first university degree, I received a phone call. The initial panic, fear and tears following news a small lesion on my elbow was diagnosed as a malignant, atypical tumour with melanocytic change and carrying cancerous characteristics doesn't sound like the life-changing moment we normally hear about, right?

At the time, it certainly didn't feel like that either, and before long I found myself in hospital undergoing a series of surgeries to check if the cancerous cells had spread to my bloodstream. Negative. The cells were localised, removed early enough and I avoided further intensive treatment.

It seems strange to say such a difficult time could make me see things in a new, positive light, but the morning after that life changing moment, I woke up with a smile on my face.

Now, almost two and a half years since diagnosis and eleven operations later, it turns out my cancer diagnosis is the best thing that's happened to me, and here's why.

I decided to do what I actually wanted to do

For many, figuring out what to do in life takes years. For others, it takes a light-bulb moment. For me, it took the words 'I don't want to die'.

In the aftermath of the diagnosis, while my mind went into overdrive, my life came to a standstill. I left my marketing and media degree, my college accommodation, and my new life in Sydney with no idea what the next day would hold. 'YOLO' all of a sudden became a phrase to live by.

But cancer, no cancer, or continuous minor operations to ensure no more cancer, within a couple of months, I was enrolled in a degree that I'd always wanted to study -- Journalism.

That led to another life-changing phone call -- from HuffPost Australia. No panic, fear or tears this time. Just nerves instead.

I became a more positive person

Naturally, I'm a worrier. My Dad would always describe my worries as monkeys that would jump up onto my back and weigh me down. You'd think then that a cancer diagnosis and the emotional and mental impacts that come with it would feel more like a gorilla jumping on my head and forcing me to the ground.

It seems strange to say such a difficult time could make me see things in a new, positive light, but the morning after that life-changing moment, I woke up with a smile on my face.

I wasn't worried when the doctors told me they'd found another abnormality that they wanted to remove, or about when they'd be able to tell me exactly what was going on.

All of a sudden, my worries just didn't matter as much. Was there anything I could do? No. Did the stigma and ramifications of the illness become who I was? Absolutely not. So, was it worth worrying about? Not at all.

I did things for me

For the first few months, the medication I was on caused my body to be exhausted by 11 o'clock in the morning and, due to the location of the major surgery, I had to operate with only one functional arm. Full of stitches, heavily bandaged and in a sling, I couldn't drive, I couldn't sleep, I couldn't work, and let's not get started on how difficult it was to have a shower.

Did this stop me living life? Nope.

Instead, I focused on the things I could do -- like booking a trip to Queensland to go to all the theme parks (you can see how 'YOLO' played its part) and planning a holiday in Thailand. So, that's what I did and that's where I went -- post-recovery of course.

I bought my very first car. Why did I buy a car while getting used to an arm that would lose feeling as soon as it left a 90 degree angle? Good question. The answer -- determination. The car I was driving pre-surgery was 11 years old and no longer road safe, and I was adamant I would drive again as soon as possible, no cancer operation was stopping that.

I also decided to complete my first internship in my new area of study and, still at 19, I had my very first article published.

People often say 'you were so unlucky'. I disagree, I think that gets said to everyone facing a cancer scare, cancer diagnosis or cancer journey. And every day I say a little prayer for those facing their own cancer experience.

But I'm actually very lucky -- I avoided cancer treatment, I have doctors and specialists who are vigilant and cautious, it has been six months since my last minor operation, and I was also lucky enough to have a life-changing moment early in life, helping me become me.

Oh and I won $19 on a scratchie once with a 'So Fresh' CD to prove it. Pure luck.

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