A childhood cancer survivor shares her story

A teenaged girl sitting on her bed
I was in total shock when I heard the diagnosis of cancer. Cancer to me was an adult’s disease. Being a 13-year-old teenager, it certainly wasn’t even on my radar.

It was August 2009 and then 13-year-old Sabrina from Oshawa, Ontario was enjoying her summer break from school just like any other teenager. However, for several months she had been plagued with ongoing leg pains, tiredness and was not feeling her overall best.

After a night of unbearable abdominal pain and a trip to the hospital emergency room, an ultrasound found a tumor on her right ovary. The tumor was an extremely rare germ cell tumor and it had ruptured and spread throughout her body.

“I was in total shock when I heard the diagnosis of cancer,” shared Sabrina. “Cancer to me was an adult’s disease. Being a 13-year-old teenager, it certainly wasn’t even on my radar.”

Every year, almost 950 children under the age of 15 are diagnosed with cancer in Canada. For these children and their families, it can be challenging to cope with the diagnosis and the demands that come with all of the necessary tests and treatments.

“I lost my hair, had no appetite and refused to get out of bed,” shared Sabrina. “I missed the normal teenage life I once had, going to school and having fun with my friends.”

There is no right or wrong way to react to the changes that come with cancer and treatment. Like Sabrina, many children in similar circumstances find it difficult at times to cope, but through the support of their family, loved ones and healthcare team, they can continue to learn, grow and find joy throughout their experience.

“I became brave as time went on and I had my family to support me through this journey.”

After going through surgery and four rounds of chemotherapy, today Sabrina is cancer-free. She shares her story with others faced with similar experiences to help raise awareness – even participating in the Canadian Cancer Society Relay For Life in her community.

Sabrina’s personal journey is a promising example of the progress being made against childhood cancer. While the 5-year survival rate is about 83%, there is still more work to be done because childhood cancer is the number one cause of disease-related death in Canadian children. Additionally, 2 out of 3 survivors live with long-term side effects from their treatment.

At the Canadian Cancer Society, we believe that one child with cancer is one too many. From investing in research that explores new ways to detect, diagnose and treat childhood cancers, as well as reduce long-term side effects of treatment, to providing families with critical support and information services, we are working to create lasting change in the lives of children touched by cancer.

You can join us in making a difference for young Canadians, like Sabrina, by supporting our Childhood Cancer Futures Fund.

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