In February 2020, I noticed a lump behind my ears. I went to see a doctor and he suspected an infection. After a round of antibiotics, the lump didn’t go away so I went to the hospital, where they did a scan but didn’t see anything.
Around this time, my family arrived in Australia, where I live, from my native France for a two-week holiday. During their stay, I was not well. I needed to sleep in the afternoon. I had massive mood swings and I couldn’t exercise like I normally do. I was also losing weight — I felt like I had my 12-year-old body again, even though I was 20.
One morning on my run the pain in my neck was so intense that it felt like my shoulders could not hold my head up. The lump behind my ear was still there, and I noticed that my collarbone on the same side was tender and slightly red. After my family’s departure I went back to the doctor for X-rays, only to be told that there was nothing to be concerned about. At the time, I had no osteosarcoma awareness, let alone knew the signs of osteosarcoma.
I told my partner Kristian that there was something not right in my body. I just knew it. I went to a physiotherapist and then an osteopath with my X-rays. Again, they all said the same thing, that nothing was wrong.
Searching for Answers
By the time I changed my general practitioner, I was in agony. When she saw how much pain I was in, she sent me to get a CT scan of my collarbone that same day, followed by an angiogram. This is when the real nightmare started.
After those scans, I was told to come for an urgent appointment and to bring support. She told me that she thought it was cancer, adding, ‘I’m going to be honest Eva, I’m very concerned. I want you to see an oncologist ASAP.’
It’s hard to describe how I felt in that moment. It was as if my soul separated from my body and I felt stuck, enclosed in a body I didn’t want anymore. It was as though all the other sounds around me were muted. I did not cry; I just felt numb.
Turns out that the growth behind my ear was a benign tumor but I had a sarcoma in my clavicle. With my diagnosis confirmed, I questioned whether I should fly home to France for treatment with my mum near me. But France at the time was at the peak of COVID-19, and my surgeon and oncologist made it clear that I needed to start chemotherapy ASAP.
The notion of organizing flights home, finding a new team of doctors, and leaving my partner was adding more stress, so I decided to stay in Australia. Because I’m not an Australian citizen I’m not entitled to Medicare, so I had to set up a GoFundMe to help with all the medical bills. Fortunately, I received the most amazing community support.
I was also incredibly well looked after at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. I met amazing humans and am forever grateful to the doctors and nurses who took care of me. Chemotherapy was hard — I never recovered from that day my hair started falling out — and halfway through treatment, my entire left clavicle was removed. It was difficult at first, as I couldn’t do a lot of simple, everyday movements, but I’ve since gained back a lot of strength. I still have pain every day, but I’m starting to feel normal again.
Summoning Positive Energy
Meanwhile, about three months into my treatment, I began to paint. I thought to myself, ‘You have to find something that gets you through this.’
I decided to paint one artwork a day. During those few hours of painting, I was only thinking about what I was doing. It was almost like meditation. I stopped scrolling through cancer pages and instead searched art tutorials and ideas for my next painting. I went to bed excited to wake up and paint the next day. I became creative again; it was a new positive energy that was driving me every day.
It’s why I decided to raise money for sarcoma awareness through my art. I know firsthand how intense the treatment is and I hope that we can find new ways to cure people. I saw the pain in patients’ eyes at Peter MacCallum and heard it in their families’ cries in the middle of the night. I felt it in my bones when the pain from the sarcoma was crippling me and in my own thoughts when I saw my image in the mirror change. I think my art is trying to counterbalance all that pain by making bright, happy images that I hope can contribute to healing the soul.
For anyone who has just been diagnosed or experiencing early signs of osteosarcoma, my advice is to listen to your body and see as many doctors as necessary. Allow yourself to be sad, to cry and scream if needed.
For me, what helped was to find acceptance. Accepting that this is part of my life’s journey. Do not give up,but accept. Only then was I able to start focusing on other things and feel free. If you are constantly in a battle, you cannot let your soul speak and find inspiration. There is nothing better than to look cancer in the eyes, feeling serene and thinking to yourself, ‘I am not scared of you.’
If you would like to help people like Eva who are receiving treatment for osteosarcoma, please consider donating today.
[LF1]Vivian, do you know here age as of Feb 2020?