In her short 24 years of life, Lena Mishra has battled cancer three times.
The Melbourne resident was aged just seven when first told she had brain cancer.
It came to light after she lost her balance and fell at school, rolling her ankle and feeling unable to walk.
“Teachers didn’t believe me when I said I couldn’t get back up. They thought I was faking it,” Ms Mishra said.
Her loss of balance and falls became more regular, she had frequent headaches, vomited and experienced double vision which later led to her Medulloblastoma diagnosis.
“I was too young to understand, too young to even know what cancer was … kids just want to play outside and not worry about anything.
“Within 24 hours, I was rushed into surgery to have the brain tumor removed.
“Growing up, I started to understand what was going on and I was scared.”
With six months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, she recovered but needed to take routine tests throughout her life.
One of those tests in 2019, when she was aged 21, revealed she had cancer in her thyroid and again she underwent emergency removal surgery.
Two years later she was diagnosed with skin cancer.
Within days of her third cancer diagnosis, doctors discovered Ms Mishra also had chronic restrictive lung disease. Her lungs now operate at a maximum of 50 per cent capacity.
They said her two most recent cancers and her lifelong lung disease were caused from radiation treatment she had for her first cancer at age seven.
“It shouldn’t have happened but it has … I know they have to do that treatment, but sometimes you can’t believe how things like that could happen.
“I don’t think anyone knew that it was going to happen like it did.
“It’s scary. Does it mean something else might happen again?”
Despite fear of returning illness, Ms Mishra — a medical secretary — has vowed to live her best life and make the most of each day.
She has since become a youth ambassador for Canteen and recently accepted a $240,000 donation on behalf of the youth cancer charity from Metricon Homes, raised through a 568 km Victorian bike ride event.
The funding has gone directly to Canteen’s specialist counseling services to help young people find the emotional support to deal with cancer.
The charity’s chief Peter Orchard said five days of non-stop cycling was an incredible achievement.
“Every dollar donated will make a huge difference to the life of young Australians impacted by cancer,” he said.
“It’s been a tough time for everyone, but for those dealing with cancer on top of Covid, life has been even tougher.”
To donate head to Canteen’s website.