Challenge Accepted by Ally McManus

Your average 14-year-old girl would ordinarily be in high school focusing on studies, sport, and socialising with friends and family

Jacynta Haigh wasn’t able to have that experience after she was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in August 2007

During her illness she spent a large amount of time in the hospital, sharing memories with a Melbourne based organisation for children with cancer called Challenge

She began chemotherapy treatment in September, a month after her diagnosis, which was a very tough experience for her

When asked about the hardest part of the treatment, Jacynta said the chemo was the worst

“The actual cancer doesn’t make you so sick, I was lethargic and a bit run down, but I had a lot of bad luck with the chemo – everything that the chemo brought on was bad news

“You just got used to constantly feeling nauseous, not being able to move, muscles not functioning, just horrible stuff,” she said

One thing Jacynta wasn’t warned about when she started her treatment was ‘chemo brain’

Jacynta said ‘chemo brain’ is a way of thinking produced by the treatment, which caused her to think “horrible thoughts” and feel unlike herself

“It’s the bit they don’t tell you about, when you’ve been diagnosed they tell you you’ll be sick, you’ll lose weight, you’ll lose your hair, but they don’t tell you how much it messes with your mind

“The day they find a better way to cure it, it will be amazing,” she said

Jacynta was heavily involved with Challenge, which allowed her to see the light at the end of the tunnel while she was struggling with cancer and chemotherapy

The organisation took Jacynta to a Justin Timberlake concert and a month-long tour around the United States

“They did a hell of a lot for me,” she said

He acknowledged some of the difficulties he must face in his job, particularly when dealing with young children getting sick

“I think as a community we think that people who get cancer should be old, and when you see babies getting it, and young people getting it, it’s that whole thing of being unfair

“It’s tough watching young people work so hard to get through their treatment to then relapse again,” he said

David believes in making each day count, which is evident when he speaks about the significance of life

“We, as individuals, have milestones for our lives – we get married, we go to university, we get a degree

“When you’re struck down by cancer at a young age, those things becomes more prevalent to you, so you want to know you’ve made a mark on the world

“I think that’s the most important thing for Challenge, to help young people make a mark

“Any person that I come in contact with, I want to make sure people identify them, and understand that they’re important, and whether they’re famous or not famous, their life is important,” he said

Jacynta’s cancer was cleared the following January after her diagnosis, and she has one final appointment with her oncologist left – forever

Ally McManus

Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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