An open letter from Tate: ‘It was the first time I felt like I wasn’t alone’
24 October 2019 at 7:45 am
CanTeen youth ambassador Tate reflects on the support he received after hearing he had cancer and the importance of talking every step of the way, ahead of National Bandanna Day on Friday.
Because of the way I look, my friends from school think of me as the “big scary person”. And when I get upset, it’s almost a bit of a surprise to everyone.
When I was told I had testicular cancer, I broke down in the hospital and freaked out, because never in my life did I expect to be told I had cancer. I was diagnosed there and then after being rushed to emergency in pain. It was a very big shock.
Why am I telling you this? Because cancer affects so much more than you think.
I was so scared when I heard the word “cancer” and immediately thought: “What’s the chance of surviving?” I had little to no knowledge of cancer and didn’t know how many people actually survive nowadays.
But what really scared me was how my family was coping, especially my mum. And while I was busy worrying about her, she was busy worrying about me during surgery, chemo and everything that came afterwards.
We were in very unknown territory, and we were all very frightened.
But talking openly as a family and communicating every step of the way helps, and there’s always someone at CanTeen to chat to if you need it.
I got the news that my cancer had come back for a second time while I was on a CanTeen camp, and I’ll never forget the way a young leader supported me through that. He wasn’t much older than me, but we had similar experiences, and it was the first time I felt like I wasn’t alone.
I’d say there’s a bit of stigma regarding guys and their health, just because it’s a whole stereotype. I personally don’t see it that way, but I definitely didn’t want to be upset in front of the others – I didn’t want to kill the mood.
But knowing there was someone willing to talk about what was going on, and also willing to accept that I might not want to talk about it, kept the pressure off and made whatever I was feeling in that moment completely normal and okay. I’m still so grateful for that.
So if you take one thing away from reading this, it’s to remember to reach out and ask for help and talk all the time, regardless of whether you’re the one going through cancer or it’s your mum, dad, brother, sister or friend.
I’m the youth ambassador for CanTeen’s Bandanna Day this year purely because I want to give back and show my thanks for the support I received that day. It opened my eyes, made me want to enjoy what I have and not take anything for granted.
My plan now is to finish uni, move to Brisbane and hopefully pursue a career in a creative industry whether that’s a designer (I designed one of the new bandannas this year which was a cool experience) or a photographer, I’m not sure yet.
Not that I’m trying to leave my life behind here in Townsville and forget everything – I’ve lived here my whole life – but a bit of change would be nice. I’m ready for the next challenge.
Join me tomorrow for #BandannaDay – you might see people selling bandannas in your local area, but if not you can grab a few online at www.bandannaday.com
And if there’s someone in your family going through cancer and you need to talk, please reach out to CanTeen: