She was a third year medical student, learning about all kinds of diseases, but still couldn’t have seen the warning signs when she found a lump in her neck. What followed changed her entire outlook on life.
“You never know when it will happen, or if it will happen to you. You’re constantly watching programmes about inspiring people who endure a battle with cancer, but you’re never fully aware that it might also affect you one day.”
This is Abigail Pace, 23-year-old medical student and cancer patient.
Abbie is reaching out with her story in the hope of inspiring others with shaking their shortcomings loose, with the aid of Puttinu Cares
“This first few weeks were a total blur, from tests upon tests to diagnostic operations. Even though I was understanding what was happening, I couldn’t bring myself to realise that I had just been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma,” she says, after discovering the cancer had formed in her lymph nodes – mere weeks after reading about the disease in her text books.
“At such a young age, how was I supposed to believe that a cancer I had read about was suddenly developing in my body?”
As the weeks went on, she began to undergo chemotherapy sessions and slowly her strength began to dwindle. “My metal health also suffered, as I spent Christmas and New Year in hospital at the time,” she explains, “but I always told myself to be proud to have made it this far.”
Abbie always understood that some people might be suffering even more than she was at the time, and she knew she needed to remain optimistic with what life had dealt her.
“I should feel lucky to have such constant support helping me get better, from both my family and the hospital,” she says.
Abbie spent a certain amount of weeks taking her treatment within Mater Dei’s Rainbow Ward (supported by Puttinu Cares Children’s Cancer Support Group) and she began to notice, almost instantly, how dedicated and accommodating the staff all were towards each and every patient.
Abbie is the kind of girl who always needs to be occupied with her time, which prompted her to come up with a way of showing appreciation to the ward staff and also benefit others around her.
What did she do? She started to make handmade cards for the ward staff and, as she made more and more, she began to sell the extras in order to raise funds for Puttinu.
Abbie still admits, however, that while she always tried to remain positive in her headspace, there were times when the side-effects of chemo would cloud over her days: “I couldn’t even bring myself to pick up a pen and start creating… the chemotherapy’s side effects were so severe.”
Consumed with anger at the brink of giving it all up, Abigail persevered and at the end of each day was still able to pick herself up and push herself to try again.
To immerse herself into this newfound hobby was to find solace in a therapy that was never sought intentionally, as it allowed her to escape her reality for brief periods whenever necessary.
“I could completely forget what I was going through,” Abigail recalls.
“As a result, this ended up not only being a platform for where I could help the Puttinu foundation, but it also became a therapeutic getaway that helped with my recovery.”
Abbie is now studying for her finals, soon to graduate as a doctor. She thanks her unfortunate blessing of a journey for developing a newfound respect for life within her.
“I found a sense of courage and passion I didn’t know I had, and a belief in myself; I can be much stronger than I might make myself out to be.”
Donations raised through her handmade cards will join the efforts of Puttinu’s Annual Football Marathon this September.
Spreading the 60 hours over the 13th, 14th and 15th, the cause will raise vital funds needed to provide children suffering with illness and disease in Malta with a better approach to life, through treatments, gifts and positivity.
The 60-hour marathon will be going down at the Marsa Sports Ground, with a free shuttle service provided by Transport Malta and Malta Public Transport operating every half hour from 5:30pm right up to midnight. With everyone from Pierre Cordina and Carl Bee to Michela Pace and Owen Leuellen performing after 8:30pm every night (including a massive concert by The Travellers on Saturday), there’s enough fun for the whole family… and all the opportunity to help other, less fortunate families in the process.
“Although each of these children’s journey is different, together, by helping Puttinu, we can help make their stories all end on a positive note,” Abigail ends, smiling.