12 months ago, at age 22, Constance Synesios thought she had her life mapped out. She was a mum to a young daughter, and studying event management at university with her whole life ahead of her.
But niggling health issues had been plaguing the young mum for around a year or so, and she found herself getting weaker and more ill almost constantly. Eventually, after collapsing at University, Constance was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma and everything changed.
Determined to help other young adults going through what she is going through, Constance is throwing her support behind the new Prince of Wales Cancer Survivorship Centre.
Having lost her father to renal cancer five years ago, Constance thought she had an idea about what cancer looked like. It was for older people, and it was heartbreaking. It wasn't for young mums like her.
Even so, there was no denying that there was something going on with her too. For twelve months Constance had been having all sorts of tests to find out why she was so lethargic, why she was losing weight so rapidly and why she was so pale.
With iron levels looking low, she had two iron transfusions, but still she struggled to have the energy to raise her arms to blow dry her hair.
A Gastroenterologist found spots on her spleen. A Haematologist thought she had problems with her iron. One GP suggested Hodgkin's Lymphoma while another GP - who had experience with Hodgkin's Lymphoma dismissed it.
Meanwhile Constance was getting more and more unwell.
With barely enough energy to get out of bed, Constance was dragging herself to important tutorials, all the while wondering how she would muster the stamina to get home again.
One particular day she was making her way to Uni on the bus. Pushing through shortness of breath and severe chest pain, the young mum struggled to get to the library where eventually she collapsed. Rushed to the emergency department at Prince of Wales hospital in Sydney by her mother, Constance was about to get the answers to her medical problems at last.
"When they told me it was cancer I just looked over at my poor mum," says Constance. "We'd already been through this with my dad, and I could just see her thinking 'we can't do this again'."
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For Constance herself the feeling was more of relief.
"I think I even smiled," she recalls. "It was just so good to finally know what was happening so we could begin to fight it."
But the fight came with challenges Constance could never have expected.
"It's so lonely," says Constance. "A lot of people on the wards are much older, there's not always anyone to relate to who is going through the same thing as you."
But perhaps the biggest challenge for Constance came not from the treatment itself, but the isolation form someone very special to her - her two-year-old daughter. Constance's treatment often took place in a ward that children under 12 couldn't visit for fear of infection.
Which meant that sometimes Constance and her little girl would go weeks without seeing each other. This was the first time they'd ever been apart, and it was so, so difficult for both of them.
After several months of treatments, Constance was declared in remission. But the battle still raged.
Post-cancer Constance found herself struggling to find work, finding it difficult to explain the large gap on her resume. In addition there were struggles associated with delaying her degree and getting back into study, managing the weight gain from steroids during chemotherapy and reconnecting with friends and family after such a long time of being isolated.
"That's why I think the new Prince of Wales Cancer Survivorship Centre will be so great," says Constance. "Just being able to be there and connect with people who have been through this, and talk about the ways that they are managing the challenges through the cancer fight and afterwards will be invaluable."
The Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation are funding the new Prince of Wales Hospital Cancer Survivorship Centre, which will open this year, offering services supporting prevention, surveillance, education and support for patients and carers following cancer diagnosis and treatment.
While the benefits of having having a Survivorship centre post-treatment are obvious, having it available during her treatment time would have meant a lot to Constance too.
"It would have meant so much to me to have been able to find someone around my age," she explains. "It would be so great for people to be able to do that, so that they could time their treatments together, because sometimes you have to sit there for several hours, having someone to sit and chat with would make that time so much more bearable.
"This centre will be so valuable to the cancer community."
The Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation is asking Australians to dig deep and make a tax-deductable donation before June 30 to support the new Cancer Survivorship Centre.
Every $1 donated will be matched by a generous Foundation supporter (up to $70,000). Donate here www.powhf.org.au/cancer
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