May 17th, 2019
| Survivor: Ocular Melanoma
The glitz, glamour and incredible celebrities all under one roof, filled with incredible food, lots of cheeky cocktails and amazing champagne. Beautiful outfits, exciting raffles and massive prizes. It’s a huge day that I love being a part of, but the reason I love it has got nothing to do with the things I have listed above.
For me, River4Ward is a day of community, where young cancer patients and survivors come together to support each other. It's where people from all around Melbourne and Australia show up in support of us. It's where everyone donates their most valuable resources: money, time and energy to support young cancer patients and survivors across Australia. It shows that people out there care about the wellbeing and experiences of our seemingly forgotten age group, and it gives me such hope that one day no young cancer patient will feel alone in their battle.
Its always so humbling to share this day with celebrities who take the time out of their busy schedules and away from the spotlight to get to know the YouCan Champs. Lisa and Jess, AKA The Veronicas, are talented, beautiful and fashionable, but that’s not what really captured my heart. It was the love, care and compassion they showed for every single YouCan champ, taking selfies, asking questions. They treated us as equals. BUT most of all it was the fact that they put off leaving for their next engagement (I don’t think their manager was too happy about that!) to stay and listen to Sufi share her journey on stage. They cheered her on and hugged her tight afterwards, putting off leaving yet again to talk to her and congratulate her on how beautifully and openly she spoke.
Another highlight of the day was having brunch with Guy Sebastian and Delta Goodrum at the YouCan centre before the event. Delta and I had met 3 years ago at the opening of the centre and even then she still remembered me (maybe the eyepatch gave me away!) We showed them around, shared our special memories we created in our little haven and ended our tour in the sound proof music room. It wasn’t long before Guy was on the drums, Delta on the piano and all of us singing and laughing our way through a few classics like “Born to try” and “Party rockers”. It was a magical memory that I will hold onto for the rest of my life!
The last and maybe the most significant was a conversation I got to have with the Sony Foundation CEO, Sophie Ryan. I got to thank her for all the work her foundation does as well as the impact it will have on my life and the thousands of other young Australians that are diagnosed with cancer at such a pinnacle time in our lives. I opened up about the battles I had been having with my fertility (or lack of), and how much it meant to me that Sony was going to support all AYA cancer patients with fertility and preservation.
I had cried tears of pure gratitude when I read that Fertility was the foundations newest focus because I am now at an age and a time where I am starting to plan for my future. This focus gives me a chance at creating a family, something that was looking like it may be off the cards. It was keeping me up tossing and turning at nights. To know that I will be given assistance in making this dream of one day being a parent a reality is beautiful. I feel like I finally have peace around an issue that has hung over my head for over 2 years.
Its amazing to have a foundation helping us that listens to our needs!
Image courtesy of Unsplash.
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Jess is an eyepatch wearing 23 year old from the Mornington Peninsula. At the age of 21, she was diagnosed with a very rare eye cancer, Conjunctival Melanoma (this is on the white part of your eye). Her treatment for the first eight months was localised surgeries and observation. Unfortunately, just after her 22nd birthday, she was told that it had spread into her lower eyelid and the only option she had was drastic surgery to remove her eye and eyelid and close over her eye socket for good. Last September Jess received news last that she is now fighting brain metastases. Despite experiencing some nasty side effects from her treatment, Jess is remaining positive, especially so as recent scans revealed no significant growth or change in the tumours.