Too many young lives and futures are robbed by this disease. And the lives being lost are the leaders and builders of tomorrow.
At 16 years of age, Maddie lost her father to cancer. She could never have imagined that just three years later, at 19, she would be diagnosed with cancer herself.
Maddie was in her second year at university, staying active and enjoying student life, when she first noticed a sign that something might be wrong. “I had zero clue that anything was up until the day I was at a café, and I felt like something fell onto my neck. When I reached up to touch above my collarbone, I felt these big hard lumps,” she says.
When was I told I might be infertile, I finally broke down and cried my heart out. I’ve always known I wanted to be a mum.
- Maddie King
A number of test were done, including blood tests, an ultrasound, a CT scan, and a needle biopsy followed by a core biopsy. It was in the US that a doctor told her that one of the lumps would need to be completely cut out of her neck for a full biopsy. She came back to Australia, where she received a diagnosis of Stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Maddie began six cycles of intensive chemotherapy, as well as follow up radiation therapy. On top of all the temporary side effects, including bone pain, nausea and fatigue, Maddie found it difficult knowing there were many potential long-term effects that her treatment might cause. As someone who had always been fit and active, she describes knowing that she would never again be completely healthy as “a kick in the guts.”
Even though it’s now been more than two years since she finished treatment, Maddie says there are constant reminders her of her cancer experience. “In an ideal world, I would just move on and forget about it. But it’s still such a huge part of what I have to think about every single day.” The biggest misunderstanding that people have about cancer, she thinks, is that it ends when treatment ends. “As you start to look like you’ve recovered, people think that the load gets lighter… but it’s kind of the opposite. I would say that the period after treatment, and even some days now, are far worse than when I was in active treatment.”
You age so fast. I feel like I had to grow up so quickly
- Maddie King
Maddie recently started a business making and selling headscarves for other women with cancer. In particular, she feels great empathy for people diagnosed with cancer at a young age. “Everyone’s got to die in some way, and you want to die of old age… but if it’s cancer, it’s cancer. Tell that to a 20-year-old who doesn’t have a family yet. They haven’t even figured out what their career is going to be, or what that next chapter for them looks like.” “You can’t enjoy life with the kind of naivety that you could before.”