By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Alan McTaggart felt the time was right to start giving back to fellow cancer survivors.
The illness is years behind the 27-year-old Endeavour Hills operations manager.
But he has jumped into support his high school buddy Daniel Margariti taking part in next month’s cancer research fundraiser Casey Relay for Life.
Mr McTaggart has also committed himself to helping Mr Margariti’s patient support group Young Adult Cancer Support (YACS).
“For a long time I’d wanted to give back,” Mr McTaggart said.
“When Daniel approached me, I thought it’s my time to shine and get on board.”
YACS gives young adult patients – who often feel isolated from peers – the chance to meet, talk and go out for fun.
It even reaches interstate, hooking up young people on the messenger app Hangouts.
Mr McTaggart had overcome his illness before reaching young adulthood. But he certainly knows something about the patients’ journey.
At 13, Mr McTaggart was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. He overcame the illness after two and a half years of chemo.
He remembers the patients who didn’t make it while he was in hospital, and feels fortunate.
“It’s just good to know they (YACS participants) are getting the support they need.”
However, his self-esteem took a hit while he was ill.
His appearance changed dramatically through the hair loss from chemo and the weight gain from steroids.
“I felt behind everyone else. I felt like they were on the bus and I was late to the bus stop.”
Students at his school treated him with kid gloves. Though motivated by kindness, their behaviour made Mr McTaggart more uncomfortable.
“One day a student didn’t know who I was and made a remark about my weight.
“I felt good about that because I was being treated normally again.”
Already shy and self-conscious, he kept to a tight circle of family and friends. His doctor told him if he stayed positive, he’d beat the illness.
“I just wanted to get through it.”
He now has a full-time job, a mortgage and is playing in a band Cloud Castles.
In a way, cancer prepared him for a life in business.
“Because of my illness, I’ve wanted to do things on my own and not rely on my own.”
Casey Relay For Life is at Akoonah Park, Berwick on Friday, 2 March from 5.45pm.
For details and to register, go to the Facebook page of Casey Relay For Life.
To find out about Young Adult Cancer Support go to youngadultcancersupport.org