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Teenager on why Canteen is crucial for kids going through cancer

Alakihihifo Vailala

Sunday is World Cancer Day, and survivor Paige Tuioti shares why sufferers don't need to feel like they're tackling this disease alone.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

“You don’t have to face this alone” is the message of a young cancer survivor as World Cancer Day approaches.

Paige Tuioti, now 22, says her cancer journey all started when she was on a trip up North, and she suddenly went blind.

“They found out that I had cancer because I had a tumour sitting on my optic nerve”.

This Sunday is World Cancer Day which aims at raising awareness of cancer and its impact.

In Aotearoa, more than 4,200 young people are impacted by cancer every year, whether it's their own diagnosis or someone in their whanau.

“My Mum actually told me that I was diagnosed with cancer and the one thought that came to my mind is, am I going to lose my hair? I had very long hair that was past my hips."

After being diagnosed, Tuioti says being a child with cancer was hard.

“I was too young to actually notice what was going on because I was only eight, so I was just telling my family, why are you guys crying?

“I think it was very hard because I was a very active girl … after cancer treatment I couldn’t run around like I used to. I couldn’t do my gymnastics and athletics.

“I couldn’t tie my hair up like other girls. I was bald. I felt missed out."

After almost two years of going through chemotherapy and radiation, Tuioti was cancer free and still is today with the exception of taking lifelong medication.

She says she’s grateful she survived with the help of family and organisations such as Canteen who support young people in New Zealand impacted by cancer.

“When I turned 13, I started going to Canteen events and I absolutely loved it because I felt normal with these people. They knew what MRIs were and CT scans. They knew what chemo felt like”.

Nick Laing, Canteen Aotearoa CEO says many young people across New Zealand depend on Canteen’s services and, to mark World Cancer Day, they’re calling on donations.

“Canteen is the only national organisation that supports rangatahi aged 13-24 impacted by cancer and receives no direct government funding. Funds raised through donations go directly towards supporting Canteen to reach more rangatahi in need and to provide support services like counselling and therapy sessions to teach rangatahi about distress and help arm them with strategies on supporting their mental health.

“Support from Aotearoa to mark World Cancer Day helps us continue to provide crucial support services for rangatahi so they don’t have to face cancer alone.”

Hero Image: Paige Tuioti when she was undergoing cancer treatment.

Photo/ Supplied/ Paige Tuioti

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