Anouk shares her childhood cancer experience and the invaluable life lessons it imparted. She highlights the importance of never feeling alone, the profound impact of her sibling’s support, and how scars are a reminder of the past but don’t define the future.
What is your name? How old are you? Where are you from?
Anouk, I’m 32 and from Luxembourg.
What’s your diagnosis?
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia when I was 4 years old.
How and when did you find out about your diagnosis?
When I was 4 years old, I was feeling unwell and my knee hurt out of the blue, so I went to my pediatric doctor who after a first check, sent me to the pediatric hospital to do a blood analysis. After the results came out, my mother and I were sent immediately in an ambulance to Brussels, Belgium to confirm the suspicion of the pediatric doctor in the Luxembourgish hospital and to directly start the treatment procedure.
What has the journey through cancer taught you?
The journey through cancer and the survivor’s life afterward taught me that we are never alone. There’s always someone by our side through the communities built around cancer (the parents’ organisations or the survivors’ groups). And I realised that unfortunately you are never the one who has the hardest way to go, there is always someone whose life isn’t as good as yours. So for being a child cancer survivor even as a toddler, you realise at a young age how fortunate it is that you’re still alive and that gives you humility at a young age.
What helped you the most during the treatment process?
Well since I was a toddler for most of my treatment, I don’t really know much about the time itself. But after the main treatment, my brother (2 years older) and I started to go to activities (painting, trips to the zoo, etc.) organised by the parent organisation and during those activities, I realised that the bond that my brother and I had as toddlers (we were and still are as thick as thieves) wasn’t something implicit.
I learned that the fact that my brother and I are that close had something to do with his beautiful character and not every sibling felt the same way as he has. He wasn’t jealous that I occupied our mother 24/7, or for the fact I had a TV in my room long before he had, or blamed me that he was living with our grandparents or family friends during that time.
During those activities, I started to realise that not only did I have to grow up faster, but that also he had to grow up faster and learn faster to handle situations at a young age. And that not only I lost a part of my childhood, but also he lost a part of his childhood because of me, and the fact that he didn’t blame me for anything, I just feel so grateful that he was my lifeline.
What do you do in your free time?
I like to experiment with different recipes, so my friends are my tasters for new recipes. I also like pretty much anything that can be catalogised in the Romance genre, from books/ mangas to TV shows. The TV shows are mostly Asian at once, mostly in Korean and Mandarin. I love to create book nooks and paint/draw my Reading Journals and Bullet journals from blank notebooks.
On the weekends or on holidays, I like to go hiking in nature to calm my soul from the hectic daily routine.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“Scars remind us that the past is real and that we lived through it to tell the tale.”
It’s easy to see our scars and to just dwell in misery. Sometimes we even might forget what we overcame in our past and think we are still living it. The scars surely aren’t anything we have to be ashamed of. They are telling only a limited part of our story, and for the most, it is the finished part of our storyline. So we have to focus on the part that still needs to be written because there are still a lot of chapters with blank pages.
What is your favourite motto in life?
“You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” A. A Milne
What makes you instantly light up?
I’m a simple person. If you smile at me, I instantly feel the need to smile.
Receiving pictures or videos of my best friend’s kids instantly warm my heart.
If you give me something that you did yourself with minimum money input, I feel instantly happy. I like it when people put effort into thinking about presents for example. The easy choice to give me are books from my wishlist on Amazon, but then I see that I got for example an origami bookmark made by themselves I’m the happiest.
One time I even got a simple painting done by a friend with the head of Minnie Mouse and that painting has been the focal point in my kitchen ever since and it still makes me happy when I look at it.
Or just getting sent a meme 😉.
What is on your bucket list?
I want to speak Korean and Mandarin. During the pandemic, I started with Korean, but only self-taught, so not very efficiently. And I began to mix up Korean and Mandarin since I also watch a lot of Mandarin TV.
One of my all-time fantasies as an avid reader is to have a built-in library. And also to rebind my books so that they all look like the Penguin Clothbound Classics.
There are also a few cities (Seoul, Jeju Islands, Tokyo) and amusement parks that I want to visit (Disneyworld in Florida; Super Nintendo World in Japan) And the list goes on…
What are some of your personal rules?
Don’t judge people without knowing the life they live.
Don’t change because of how someone feels about you. How they feel about you, is their problem, not yours.
If you can help, you should help.
Which app do you use the most on your phone?
The App I use the most is Kindle 😉.
What’s the last thing you watched on TV/internet/Netflix and why did you choose to watch it?
Like I said before, I’m watching Korean and Chinese dramas, the latest one I watched was “Go Ahead” (2020, Chinese). It’s about 3 children who formed their little family with 2 of their fathers. They had to grow up fast, because of different situations happening in their respective lives, one lost her mother to a disease, the second one was abandoned by his mother with an absent father and the third one lost his sister to a tragic accident which the mother blamed her son on, so she went abroad without him and his father due to depression.
I chose to watch it, because of the bond the kids created with one another over the timeline and how they overcame their family situations and grew up to be happy and become the people they wanted to be
Editor’s Note: Embark on a journey of strength and support! Join our thriving online cancer survivorship community on Discord. Connect with fellow survivors, share stories of triumph, and find comfort in a network that understands. Together, we are resilient. Click here to join and embrace a community of hope and healing. 🌟