A series on young people who are undergoing cancer treatment. Teenager Olivia Robinson battling cancer. Photo: Jay Cronan
The only sign something was wrong was a painful knee that didn't get better. Olivia Robinson, 18, was in year 12 at Canberra College last year and never dreamed her sore joint could be a sign of bone cancer.
She said the shock of hearing her left leg might be amputated above the knee was almost worse than the five months of chemotherapy that followed.
''Everything before this, when I got a cold, it was like the end of the world. But you don't realise how much you have until you lose it. Like, I totally took just walking around for granted. I took hair for granted … I'm not going to take that for granted again,'' she said.
Olivia was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in July, and a month later was having chemotherapy treatment in Sydney. ''It was very, very scary. All of a sudden you realise how much everything is going to have to change - I thought it would just be something simple and then it turned out it was not simple at all,'' she said.
Olivia lost her long blonde locks and gained weight on her face from anti-rejection medication. ''You know you're going to look very different and you're going to get sick and that was hardest part I think, because I felt perfectly fine - besides having a sore knee and I thought they're going to have to make me so much worse to make me better in the end,'' she said.
To keep her spirits up, Olivia spends about 30 minutes every day applying fake eyelashes and putting on her wig.
''Without eyelashes you can't wear any eye make-up. It was driving me insane. I think I was more bothered by the loss of eyelashes than anything else,'' she said.
Her hair began to fall out a week after her first chemotherapy session.
''I had really long blonde hair. It was waist-length, and I loved my hair so much … [but]I was sick of seeing hair everywhere so I just shaved it off. I had the wig then. And I've always worn the wig, I don't think I've gone out without it - other than around the home,'' she said.
Olivia's femur, or thighbone, and her knee were replaced last September and she finished chemotherapy in March.
Recently, she began working at Sugar Fix at Majura Park and plans to go to university next year, to study nursing.
''I knew I wanted to do something in this area, but spending so much time in a hospital I realised exactly what a nurse does and I realised that's what I kind of want to do too,'' she said.
This is the first in a three-part series profiling young Canberrans living with cancer.