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Using my lived experience to help others

October 2nd, 2023

Categories: Blog

Hi there!

Some of you may know me as the Senior Intake and Support Coordinator here at Little Dreamers.

What you may not know, is that my mum was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer in 2001. This is my story. 

I was 14 years old, living in Sydney. My older sister had moved to Melbourne a couple of years prior. I was attending a small, private school in the northern suburbs.

Life was normal, just your usual run-of-the mill ‘stuff’. I enjoyed playing sports and hanging out with friends. I was super embarrassed to be seen with my parents, I struggled academically but the arts and design subjects were where I excelled.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think anything bad could happen. Then, one afternoon in December, my parents called me in the lounge and explained that mum had a tumour on her ovaries.

I’d never heard of the word tumour and didn’t know what cancer was at the time. I remember going to school the next day and telling a few friends; no one had heard of it either, so I didn’t think it could be a bad thing.    

The next couple of months went by in a flash. My mum went in for surgery and was recovering well. Then a few days later, she passed away.

I remember feeling incredibly confused; the sadness was unimaginable and the chaos that followed felt like a tornado. 

In a class of 60 kids, I was the only one who had lost a parent. People looked at me differently; I was ‘that’ girl everyone talked about. My home life and school life became instantaneously different. Something my friends didn’t understand. I felt isolated and unable to communicate my feelings. I felt pressure to put on a brave face and live up to the ‘strength’ required to move through grief.

The past 20 years have been a constant journey of searching and healing.

Being a part of Little Dreamers has helped me use my lived experience to help others. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing our Young Carers feel safe, seen and heard.  Seeing them grow and develop into the amazing young people they were born to be.

If I could leave you with one message, it’s a bit of wisdom from our favorite bear, Winnie the Pooh: 

“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

Written by Amber Waksman, Senior Intake and Support Coordinator at Little Dreamers

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