Only months from finishing high school and feeling bulletproof, high achieving student Adry Awan received the news no young man expects to hear.
After months of drastic weight loss, muscle aches and a mysterious lump, Adry knew something was wrong, but he still went into shock when his doctor said: “you have testicular cancer”. The cancer had spread to vital organs. It felt like a nightmare.
“At that point in my life, I had enough to worry about – passing the HSC, getting a date for my formal and deciding on a university degree,” he recalls. “I didn’t want to believe my doctor – it was so difficult to accept.”
As Adry faced this “new normal”, he tried so hard to maintain his study, perform his school captain duties and spend time with his school mates. But every cycle of chemotherapy and radiotherapy left him sick and drained, making it impossible for him to live a normal life.
Adry was often sad and angry. At times he felt suicidal. “I kept these feelings to myself,” he admits. “I didn’t want to cause more heartache to my loved ones.”
It’s estimated that 17 young people like Adry will be diagnosed with cancer each week. It’s common to feel isolated, afraid, anxious and confused about the future. That’s why Redkite exists; to ensure young people like Adry don’t have to go it alone as they navigate cancer.
From the moment a young person enters hospital for treatment, Redkite provies critical counselling, information and support.
One of the hardest things about cancer in your teens and early 20s is that it puts education and career dreams on hold, which is why Redkite offers young people career guidance to help them find alternative pathways to build a bright future. And because the emotional challenges often remain long after treatment is over, Redkite is there to provide counselling via the phone, email or through peer support groups no matter where they are.
Fortunately, when Adry was at his lowest point, he was encouraged to get counselling, and he learnt valuable skills to manage his mental health. Finally, he felt capable of doing things that made him feel good – watching the Sydney Swans play with his family and relaxing with his friends. Adry also received special consideration for his HSC, which took a huge amount of pressure off.
Things were looking up – but then came an unexpected setback when two weeks after graduating, Adry learnt his cancer had relapsed.
“I was absolutely devastated," he says. “I felt like the rug had been pulled from under me.”
Adry and his parents and doctor agreed he would defer his media studies degree. It was a huge blow that brought unexpected blessings when Adry’s Redkite social worker introduced him to the Redkite education and support team.
This was a lifeline, giving Adry support he needed to set short-term and long-term goals, and develop a realistic plan to make them happen.
“That year, the team taught me how to write resumes and cover letters, and helped prepare me for job interviews,” says Adry. “Knowing my dream was to one day work in media and communications, they connected me with people in the industry, whose knowledge and experience allowed me to see my dream a lot more clearly.”
The next year, Adry was overjoyed to finish treatment and begin univeristy. Redkite continued to be there to support Adry as he began his studies.
“Support from Redkite helped ease my transition to life after cancer, ensuring it was as smooth as possible,” he says. “I’m now living a much healthier and more rewarding life. I am proud to say that I am cancer… free.”
Adry has now finished his media studies degree and is thrilled to be working in the industry. Mental health remains a priority – he keeps connected to his best friends and has real and honest conversations with his family and therapist.
“Looking back on my journey with cancer, I recognise that the support I received from Redkite helped shape me into becoming the best version of myself,” he says.
“Redkite were there to help lessen the burden of cancer. This has made me confident that there are no challenges in my future that I cannot overcome. More importantly, there are no challenges I have to face alone.”