A BALLARAT cancer survivor is putting her best foot forward and running to help other people facing the disease.
Ballarat resident Jess Bennetts said her world was turned upside down in 2012, when at the age of 21, she was diagnosed with a rare form of gastrointestinal neuroendocrine cancer.
In the midst of enduring 24 weekly rounds of chemotherapy, Ms Bennetts, now 24, said she felt isolated and alone.
“I felt like I was in a big, black, never-ending hole,” she said
“Most of the people going through the same treatment were much older and I felt that even though my family was amazingly supportive nobody understood what I was going through.”
At the suggestion of her chemotherapy nurses Ms Bennetts joined CanTeen in February 2010.
“Suddenly I was meeting people from all walks of life and just having an instant connection with them because we were all linked by this one thing,” she said.
“It came at a time in my life when I really needed that support and those connections with people ... they just completely understood me.”
The aim of CanTeen is to help young people aged 12 to 24 who are battling cancer cope with the physical, emotional and social impact it has on their lives.
It provides specialist hospital care, counselling and discussion among young people who have cancer and emotional support for their family members.
It also provides recreational activities and camps for the young people and their siblings.
“It provides a place where you can just go and chill out and be a young person and escape everything,” Ms Bennetts said.
Ms Bennetts who has been in remission for two years, has now taken on the role of president of CanTeen Victoria to mentor other young people struggling to cope with their diagnosis.
In a bid to raise more than $1000 for the charity, Ms Bennett and 40 of her family and friends will take part in the The Age RUNMELBOURNE event.
The 3-kilometre children’s event, 5-kilometre or 10-kilometre run and Brooks half-marathon allow participants to get active and raise money for the charity of their choice.
Ms Bennett has already raised more than $750 but is hoping to raise $1000 which will be used to fund a weekend camp for young people touched by cancer.
“When I was first diagnosed I thought this illness had ruined my life,” she said.
“But now, I look back and I think it has enriched it and made me the person I am today because even though I have gone through this extremely difficult experience I have met all these amazing people who will be my friends for life and I want to give back to CanTeen what they have given me.”
RUNMELBOURNE will be held at Federation Square on July 27.
To donate to Ms Bennett’s runmelbourne2014.everydayhero.com.au/Jessica-10
For details of the event, visit www.runmelbourne.com.au