Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of sharing my cancer story at Sydney Colour Ball 2018 at Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour. The Sydney Colour Ball is an annual, cocktail-style event that raises important funds for Redkite so they can reach even more families affected by cancer and provide them with its essential services. Every year, guests are encouraged to dress up in the colour theme – and this year’s colour was ultraviolet!
The fun, party-like atmosphere of the Sydney Colour Ball certainly helped remove any nerves I had about sharing my story. There were lots of good food, drinks and music, as well as an incredible group of volunteers who mingled with and encouraged all of the guests to take part in the raffles and silent auction.
In my speech [transcribed below], I addressed how being diagnosed with testicular cancer at 17 years old significantly devastated the dreams I had for my life, how my family and friends helped me cope with the impact that my diagnosis had on my mental health, and most of all, how the support I received from Redkite helped shape me into becoming the best version of myself today.
I am grateful for the life I lead now because of Redkite. The support I received from Redkite has given me the confidence to believe I can overcome any challenges I may face in my future, and that I won’t have to face these challenges alone.
Adry’s Speech Transcript
My name is Adry and it is truly my pleasure to be here this evening to share my cancer story.
Just over five years ago I found myself in a doctor’s office with my Mum and Dad sitting either side of me. I was in my final year of high school and naturally, would have much preferred to be in the classroom with all my friends than with my Doctor. But after recently experiencing a variety of symptoms in the months prior, such as a significant loss in weight and ongoing muscle aches, as well as discovering a lump in my right testicle, I understood the seriousness of my family and I being there.
Noticing how tense I was, my Doctor pulled his chair closer to mine and placed his hand on my shoulder to comfort me, right before he broke the news.
“You have testicular cancer,” he said. “But you also have a whole team of people who are going to help you get through this. You are not alone on this one.”
I didn’t believe my Doctor at first. As a matter of fact, I didn’t want to believe him. To be diagnosed with cancer at such a young age at such an important time in my life was extremely difficult to accept. I was just four months from completing the HSC and six months shy of graduating. I was only 17 and like any 17 year old, I already had enough to worry about – such as who to take as my date to the formal, how to pass the HSC and what degree to study at university. But there I was, in my Doctor’s room with my parents beside me, forced to worry about whether I would be healthy enough to complete year 12 at all.
As I tried to cope with my new normal, I made an effort to live my life the way I had always done before I was diagnosed. As a student, I continued to try to be the first one to class and the last to leave. As the School Captain, I devoted my extra time and energy towards representing my school in the wider community, and as a friend, I was always up for nights out with the boys. I was determined to remain the person that my family, teachers, classmates and friends knew me to be.
But with every cycle of chemotherapy and radiotherapy I received, the more physically draining it became to be the first to class and the last to leave…
With every trip back to my Doctor’s room, the more difficult it became to find time to go out with the boys…
My cancer diagnosis had a profound effect on my everyday life and caused me to experience a great deal of sadness and anger on a regular basis. On occasion, it even triggered suicidal thoughts. However, I largely kept these emotions to myself because I believed that the management of my mental health was a responsibility that fell on my shoulders and mine alone. I was very reluctant to open up to my teachers, friends and family about my mental health because I believed it would cause them even more heartache and worry. And I wouldn’t allow that to happen. I wouldn’t forgive myself if I let that happen.
I viewed myself as an immense burden to all the people in my life and pretty much distanced myself from the classroom and my friends and family…
Despite how distant I became, the love, care and compassion my support network had for me never wavered. And I’m so thankful for that.
As a way to strengthen our family during this turbulent time, my parents regularly took my younger brother and I to the SCG to watch the Sydney Swans play, knowing how passionate we all were about the team. My friends (all “the boys”) became just as keen for a night in with me, watching a movie, having dinners or doing a few laps of the pool when I had the strength, as they were on going out. My teachers, who saw the pressure that cancer was putting on my schoolwork, helped organise for me to receive special considerations for the HSC exams. These special considerations were exactly what I needed. They allowed me to complete the exams with extra time, which in turn, helped me achieve my dream of graduating high school and accepting an offer to study at Uni.
It was until two weeks after I graduated from high school, I found myself once again in my Oncologist’s room, with my Ma and Pa sitting beside me, to hear my results from a routine check-up. After accepting an offer to study at Uni, I firmly believed that I was on my way to putting cancer in the rear view mirror and was ready to move on with my life.
As he had done once before, my Doctor pulled his chair closer to mine before he broke the news. He told us that despite the best efforts of treatment, my cancer had in fact relapsed. I was absolutely devastated. I felt like the rug had been pulled from underneath me. To ensure the proper surveillance of my health and recovery, my parents, doctor and I agreed that I would postpone the start of my degree for one year.
Though I could not see it at first, taking a gap year was in fact a blessing. Through my social worker, I was introduced to Redkite’s Education and Career Support (ECS) Team. And over the course of my gap year, my ECS team taught me how to write resumes and cover letters and help prepared me for job interviews. And knowing that my dream was to one day work in media and communications, they also connected me with people in the industry to chart a career path that would supplement what I would be studying at uni, which was a degree in media studies. When I eventually began my degree, I regularly accessed financial support from Redkite to cover the cost of textbooks. Overall, the support I received from Redkite helped ease my transition to life post-cancer, ensuring it was as smooth as possible whose knowledge and experience allowed me to see my dream clearly.
When I eventually began my career I regularly accessed financial support from Redkite to cover the costs of textbooks. Overall the support I received from Redkite helped ease my transition to life after cancer, ensuring it was as smooth as possible.
I’m now 22 and proud to say that I’m living a much healthier and more rewarding life. The boys that stayed by my side all throughout high school have become like my family. They are also here to support me tonight – thank you, Lads!
I now make a point to regularly have open and honest conversations about my mental health, whether that’s with the lads, my parents or a professional. I have since completed my degree in media studies from the University of New South Wales and am currently working in the media and communications industry. Most of all, I am proud to say that I am cancer… free.
Looking back on my journey with cancer, I recognise that the support I received from Redkite helped shape me into becoming the best version of myself. Whether the odds I faced were great or small, Redkite were there to help lessen the burden of cancer. This has made me confident that there are absolutely no challenges in my future that I cannot overcome. But more importantly, there are no challenges that I will have to face alone. I am grateful for the life I lead now, thanks to Redkite.
On that note, I hope you all have an awesome night. Please check out the exciting prizes in the Silent Auction and see a volunteer for raffle tickets! There are some great prizes up for grabs such as tickets to 5 Seconds of Summer, tickets to the Wallbies vs All Blacks Rugby game in August and tickets to the NRL Grand Final game! Oh, and my favourite, a tour of my team’s home, the SCG, for four people.