Children's Cancer Foundation
Anna survived Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) as a child and is becoming a paediatric oncologist to help others like her. She shares her amazing story.
After leaving Santa Cruz in California for Australia’s shores around eight years ago, Anna who now calls Melbourne home is a Junior Medical Doctor currently training to become a Medical Oncologist.
Surviving Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) as a child certainly inspired her career choice.
“I initially went to nursing school. Spending so many hours in the hospital as a child, I loved how the nurses always made me feel so safe. Then I met a fantastic medical oncologist during my training that inspired me to become one too’’.
Anna has overcome learning difficulties from missing so much school when she was in treatment to forge her medical career.
‘’I had to work twice as hard as other students to maintain my grades and keep up, including being tutored. It was frustrating because I worked so hard but the gains were sometimes lost by going back into hospital’’
‘‘I remember being told I would always be behind academically and that I should manage my career aspirations because of the learning difficulties I would face. I was determined to become a nurse. I kept pushing on, eventually leading me into my medicine career”.
In 1993 at just three and a half years old Anna’s future looked uncertain.
‘’I was sick for a long time before finding out I had ALL. I had multiple diagnoses of pneumonia in one year’’. The tipping point came on a family holiday at Lake Tahoe (USA) which is located on a high elevation.
‘’On a walk I had extreme difficulty breathing. We left the lake early so I could be re-examined and treated for what my parents’ thought was another pneumonia’’.
When Anna and her family arrived back home, their GP immediately called an ambulance and she was transferred to the hospital’s haematology ward.
Anna had chemotherapy for fiveyears. ‘’Strangely, I never lost my hair. I remember my mother trying to cut my hair before I could lose it. Doctors told me I very likely would. I always expected it, but I never did!’’.
‘’I will never stop giving back to the nursing and medical community that helped my family and I so much’’.
Memories of all she had been through were triggered when Anna began volunteering in hospital years later. ‘’I wasn’t aware I had bottled up a lot of feelings about my experience. I was able to work through this over time, but it was so unexpected, as I assumed, I was ‘done with cancer’. I soon realised you’re never completely done”.
‘’I dealt with my anxiety by speaking to other people in remission facing similar issues and educating myself on common experiences of other childhood cancer patients which made me realise I was not alone. By acknowledging and understanding my feelings, it allowed me to continue on with my goal to give back by working in the medical field.’’
It’s from this wisdom Anna also offered these words to young cancer patients and their families.
‘’Children are resilient. Those years will be some of the hardest in all your lives, yet they will give you a perspective that many people will never experience, one that will bring much greatness in the future years. You will not always have to face this in your life. It becomes a distant memory eventually’’.
Anna misses her family but knows that Melbourne is the place for her, getting outdoors as much as possible when she isn’t working. (Before Covid19 hit), ‘’I spend most weekends down the surf coast or walking my dog. I love being active with friends and enjoying what the city and nature can offer!’’
You can show your support for better childhood cancer outcomes by donating today.
Thank you, Anna, for sharing your story of triumph over children’s cancer.