Ahead of Daffodil Day, Long Bay College’s Year 12 student Dominique Stallard bravely shared very personal and powerful words about the impact of cancer, with our students at assembly. We share her speech here:
“I don’t know where to start. Probably because I don’t know where it began.
Flashback – It’s 2012. I’m nine years old. Everything seems normal, or so I thought, but my nice sister was strangely grumpy. Blood tests don’t really mean so much, you do them when the doctor wants one to check a few things. But these few things meant a lot. Driving to the hospital and hearing the news washed over my child-mind like soap down the drain. These big words meant so much, I am crying from confusion, we all are. Your sister has Leukaemia they said. What is that? The questions keep rolling in, and in. Leukaemia is a blood cancer, unlike other cancers, it’s not something you can remove. The cancer cells are just everywhere in the entire body.
I’m 10 years old. Cancer isn’t something avoidable. It can hit you like a brick. Smash your mind into a million pieces. You just get down into it. My sister’s hair is gone, but it’s the least of her worries. That’s the most painless side effect of them all. Why is that? It’s hard to explain.
Picture this. You have a garden full of vegetables and fruits, it’s beautiful and full of personality. Like life really. But then some weeds come along. Cancer is that weed. Chemotherapy is the only weed killer around. So you grab it like a lifeline and spray till your garden is drenched completely. The weeds are gone! Cancer has gone, but all that is left is soil. Your vegetables are also gone for the meantime. This means your hair’s gone. Your immunity is gone. You are vulnerable. Completely vulnerable.
I’m 11 years old. My sister in my eyes is a hero. Whether it be pills, injections, infusions, tests, surgeries (the list can go on), my sister has conquered it all. It’s tough to see what she has had to go through. Her journey has been far from a walk in the park. My sister is a bright shining star. Beautiful and glowing as she grows once more into that hard earned garden that we cherish and love.
The years go by. Life is something that I had never looked at so differently after this traumatic experience. The idea of losing someone that you love is hard to comprehend. We are so lucky. Life is a rollercoaster, cliché but so true I could scream it. It’s got its ups, but you can never appreciate an up without a down. You learn, you continue. You fight, you battle. The years go by.
It’s 2019 – I’m 17 years old. Everything seems normal. My sister is grumpy. Not usual teenage grumps, something a little nastier. Unusual, and somewhat understandable, life just hasn’t been good. A few tests, but let’s brush those off for a bit. Focus. Focus on school, focus on.
And the brick hit me again. My mind shattered into millions of pieces that I had only just finally stuck back together. It’s back. The horrible Leukaemia is back. Whoah. Take a step back. Breathe.
Everyone knows what cancer is, but not a lot of people know what the procedure is like unless you have been involved. For Leukaemia, there are two roads. The first road involves a series of chemo and other drugs. These drugs aren’t as simple as they sound. Side-effects from these drugs are sometimes the worst parts of the procedure.
The second road involves a bone marrow transplant. Big words, again. This consists of removing the bone marrow of the patient and finding a donor to replace it. Leukaemia starts in the bone marrow and then spreads to the blood, so the starting place will hopefully be “eradicated”.
As a “just in case,” I decided to see if I would be a match for the transplant, if my sister needs one. Even though there is only a 25% chance of me being a match. As of only last week, I found out that I am a 100% match. As of only last week, my sister might need that transplant. As a sister, I am saying “yes” to saving a life. As a sister, I am going to do this. That is what I call love, loving unconditionally.
It’s not fair. Never fair. To have to even fathom someone to go through it, let alone my sister. Let alone twice. To stand by her side and watch it all unfold again is heart wrenching, room silencing. Her bright eyes let me know who she is. She isn’t a cancer kid, she is my sister. And she’ll be a survivor, the second time around.
This is where the Cancer Society can help people, like my sister and many people around you with their journey. They are on a quest to find a cure and they need your help. Whether it be $2 or a few cents it can help them fund the research and find something that will stop someone’s journey from beginning. People need their help, and you can be the one to help too.