Shining light of support in the darkness of cancer

Chelsea Falco was diagnosed with a brain tumour at age 20, just three years after losing her Dad to cancer.

“It was basically putting a lot of pressure on my optic nerves and affecting my vision,” she explains.

Most of the tumour was able to be removed by surgery.

“I felt a lot better and got rid of my symptoms, but there was a small bit of tumour left that we need to keep an eye on.”

Support for young people

The Youth Cancer Service got in touch to provide individualised support and to link Chelsea with community services, such as Canteen for peer support, as well as cancer education consultants.

“At the time I was really close to the end of my degree (Bachelor of Science), with just one semester to go. I really wanted to finish it, but had just had surgery,” she said.

“Youth Cancer Service put me in touch with a cancer education consultant to support me to get through it. It was awesome I got to finish it.”

The Youth Cancer Service SA/NT is run out of the Royal Adelaide Hospital and provides multi-disciplinary support to young people aged 15-25 who are going through cancer.

The team includes doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologist, exercise physiologist and music therapist.

“I can talk to them and ask questions about anything socially, mentally, physically,” Chelsea said.

“The support, I can’t even put into words how helpful it has been.”

Youth Cancer Service Manager Allan Hayward said the service helps about 170 patients each year.

“Most of our work is helping patients to navigate the health system throughout their treatment and helping them maintain their life outside of their cancer diagnosis, especially at such a critical life stage” he said.

“We work with young people to work out what their needs are, to set goals and help link them to services and supports in the community.”

Monitoring every 3-6 months, Chelsea says she can continue to “live a normal life” and has been able to start her career as a lab technician.

Life beyond diagnosis

Unfortunately, in July last year, scans showed the remaining tumour had grown and she needed chemotherapy.

“When that came up, the Youth Cancer Service got in touch with me again and provided so much support because things had kicked up again,” she said.

“They make sure I know where to go and who to talk to.

“Even little things like they asked me to think about fertility preservation and whether I want freezing my eggs before chemo. That’s something I wouldn’t even think of.”

Since finishing chemotherapy a few months ago, Chelsea has been working with the Youth Cancer Service exercise physiologist to help improve her energy levels and physical fitness.

“They have both (Youth Cancer Service and Canteen) literally been lifesavers.”

Pictured are Chelsea Falco with Youth Cancer Service social worker Alahna Murcott wearing bandannas in support of Canteen’s National Bandanna Day.