My mum was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was five. In the very early stages of her treatment, I decided what I wanted to do when I grew up.
My mum was very lucky, her cancer responded to treatment and she’s alive today. Her story and our family experience were my first inspiration. Now when I hear a cancer story, it joins mum’s story in my heart, and makes the desire to make a difference even stronger.
So I’m keeping that promise to my 5-year-old self. I’m doing a PhD under the supervision of Dr Toby Trahair, a Staff Specialist in Paediatric Haematology/Oncology at Kids Cancer Centre, Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, and a Clinical Research Fellow in the Embryonal Cancer Therapy and Prevention Group at Children’s Cancer Institute. I’m working on a rare childhood cancer called Inflammatory Myofibroblastic Tumour or IMT.
After two gruelling years of treatment and surgery, Giulia has been in remission for two years. She has admitted to her mum that her greatest fear is that her cancer will come back, i.e. that it will relapse. If that happens, there’s very little doctors can do.
Giulia is a patient of Dr Trahair, my PhD supervisor. Knowing her story makes me even more determined to find a cure for this terrible disease.
Giulia and I have something in common. She’s been inspired by the research we’re doing, and thinks it would be ‘cool’ to be a scientist one day. Perhaps she’ll grow up to be a cancer researcher too!
If you’re a science student at uni and were inspired by Ash’s story and her search to find cures for cancer, maybe you could do a PhD or honours year with us. Find out how you can study with us.
Top image: PhD student Ashleigh Fordham in the lab and (inset) at age 5, when she decided she wanted to cure cancer.