ONE WARRIOR with Rikki Stern
This young warrior is a power woman and a half! Not only has she kicked cancer's ass at the age of 20, but she somehow found time to start Cancer Chicks Australia and now fosters a growing community of Aussie cancer warriors. ❤️
Rikki has a wealth of knowledge on how to get through the cancer shit show and a heart of pure gold.
Get ready to be moved and very impressed my friends.
Name: Rikki Stern
Cancer: 2B Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
What was happening in your world at the time?
Like most typical 20-year-old girls, I was having the time of my life with very little to worry about, interning in media and working at a chocolate shop part time. One morning I woke up feeling like I had a cold and a sore throat (a pain that’s hard to explain but felt as though something were stuck in my neck). I went to see my doctor the next day when it hadn’t gotten better and he believed I just had a cold but said that if my neck wasn’t feeling any better the next day, that I should get an ultrasound – which was what would happen. The ultrasound scans found nothing, but I had complained to the technician that it had hurt (which is apparently not normal) so I was sent to get more scans which had shown a 10cm growth from my neck to my chest. I had to get three biopsies (two in the neck and one in the chest) as the cells in the first two had died. It was the longest three weeks of my life and had flipped my world on its head.
Cancer in 3 words.
Heartbreaking, isolating, eye-opening
What helped you get through?
PERSON: My family, friends, boyfriend and dog – they all played their part.
SUPPORT GROUP: The nurses at Chris O’Brien life house are my greatest support group.
SOCIAL MEDIA: @cancerchicksaustralia allowed me to no longer feel so alone in my journey. There are things you hold back from your family & friends to protect them that other women going through the same thing will understand more than any others.
FOOD: Soggy nutri-grain was all I could down when I had mouth ulcers!!!
LIFESTYLE THING: Do something to make yourself feel pretty – for me that was manicures and spray tans.
EXERCISE: I was told before treatment by a fellow cancer survivor to exercise profusely during treatment – I did so after my first few treatments and became sick as a dog. Listen to your body not your brain or other people when it comes to exercise.
BOOK: Loving Michelle Obama’s Becoming!
PRODUCT: An eyebrow pencil. Tip: either go to a Look good, Feel better or get them to send over a care package because who doesn’t love a package of free makeup and skincare products.
DRUG/MEDICINE: Use a heat pack for bone or vein pain.
QUOTE: Storms make trees take deeper roots
PIECE OF ADVICE: Learn to draw your eyebrows on your arms before you lose them because without practice, a blank canvas can be tough.
RITUAL: I tried to distract myself with hobbies and movies but only came to resent those things after months of repetition – my advice would be to give yourself projects that can grow and change overtime!
Golden tip for the friend and family of a cancer warrior.
We just need you to acknowledge it is shit and that you’re there for us if we need. I liked when people added ‘no need to reply’ at the end of their messages because when you are being bombarded with messages or don’t feel up to talking, its nice to know. Also don’t update on the random cures you may have read in cosmopolitan and don’t tell them about other people who had the same cancer with bad outcomes – It seems like it should be self-explanatory but apparently, it’s not.
The worst part of cancer?
Seeing your loved ones in pain.
The best part of cancer?
You are reminded that you are loved by many… and also the cancer perks! People start offering you free things and you can also cut queue’s – take advantage of them while you can my friends.
Ummm.... the dress!!!
How has the whole cancer ride changed you and your life?
I feel grateful for things I once took for granted - walking, swimming and just being alive. I feel I have become a stronger, wiser and happier person. I now have purpose – so in a way, I feel grateful for cancer
What has it taught you?
To be kind to all people. So often I had people in my community reach out and tell me that they had or were going through cancer and had been hiding it from everyone. You really never know what others are facing, so be kind.
Cancer chicks meet up
Cancer theories: Do you think you were destined to get cancer? Or did something happen along the way?
I spent much of my high school years living in Canada and during that period and years afterwards I would keep myself awake at night and ignore my body just to speak to friends and family. My immune system became so stuffed around that I had shingles, glandular fever and countless tonsillitis. My doctor had said you were more likely to get my cancer when you have had one of those immune diseases – the things I would tell my twelve-year old self now hey!
Golden tip for new warriors.
Take comfort in the knowledge you will become a stronger person from this.
Any other nuggets worth sharing?
You don’t have to put on a brave face during your journey, but I find it makes it easier for yourself and the others around you if you try. Soon you actually start to feel as brave as you pretend to be.