What is your name? How old are you? Where are you from?

I’m Hannah Gsell from Austria and I’m 31 years old.

What’s your diagnosis?

In 2006, at the age of 14, I was diagnosed with Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

How and when did you find out about your diagnosis?

In the summer of 2006, I noticed for the first time that I was not very fit physically and that I was very quickly out of breath during physical activity. In addition, I was very pale (so even more than already ;)) and always tired and listless. Then, at the start of fall, I collapsed on a hiking trip after the first few 100 meters with strong heart palpitations and dizziness. We had the concern that I had problems with my heart and went to the hospital. There it quickly turned out that I at least had no heart problems … 

What has the journey through cancer taught you?

Negative feelings are just as valid as positive feelings. Fear, discomfort, and anger are part of life, and I have nothing to gain from repressing them. After all, they do come out again at some point.

What helped you the most during the treatment process?

Now this may sound striking, but to stay positive and not get the idea to ask the “Why” question. This all came from me and was very easy for me and during the treatment it was exactly the right thing to do. 

What has changed in your life since your cancer diagnosis?

Everything has changed, myself, and my life. I was very young when I got sick, so sometimes it feels like there wasn’t much before that. A lot of time has passed since then, my cancer story does not define me, but it is a part of my story.

If you were to meet yourself the day you heard a diagnosis, what would you say to your younger self?

You’re doing really well. Just remember, you are allowed to accept help, to be weak sometimes is not a disgrace and to let others help, does not burden them, but gives them the feeling to be helpful.

What would you like to accomplish within EU-CAYAS-NET?

Cancer is not over when treatment is over. Certain issues accompany you throughout your life, whether just physical or psychological. Those affected need a public voice and peer support so they know they are not alone and can learn from the experiences of others.

What do you do in your free time?

Spending time with my favorite person, reading, drinking coffee, spending time with my horse, yoga, going for a walk.

What do you need/want to have a crash course in?

Currently? I would really like to learn how to bind books! But it is quite possible that the answer in 2 weeks will be different again 😉

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

If you do your best, that’s all you can do. 

What is your favorite motto in life?

“The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” – Jack London

What makes you instantly light up?

Seeing my favorite person, my horse, a good cup of coffee, the first spring day after a long, dark winter, the sea, sun rays falling through the forest canopy.

What is on your bucket list?

A road trip (or several) in a caravan through Europe, a ride on the Costa Verde Express, a trail ride in Spain or Italy by the sea, and as much sailing as possible.

What do you do to relax?

Basically the same things I do in my free time. Spending time with my favorite person, reading, drinking coffee, spending time with my horse, yoga, going for a walk.

What keeps you going every day?

Life and the possibility to master a new day.

What personal goal would you like to achieve next?

To find my inner center and peace with myself.

What makes your life feel purposeful?

Being alive 😉 

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) Survivor

How do you cope when things get hard?

I try to concentrate on the essential things (sometimes it works better, sometimes less) and make myself aware that everything in life has its meaning. And if it is only to learn from it.

What lesson was hardest for you to learn?

That my cancer story has left more traces in me than I thought. Shortly afterwards, I had the feeling that I could do anything, that I was now invulnerable. During the time of treatment, I always concentrated on the positive and then just continued with it. 

Only in recent years I had to realize that all this has changed and left more in me. Negative feelings also have their justification.

Which app do you use the most on your phone?

I guess WhatsApp and Signal and to my shame Instagram. I waste too much time on this platform.

What is one book you would definitely recommend to read? 

Regarding books, I imagine you’re going to be scratching your heads right now, but definitely Harry Potter. And no, having seen the movies is not the same 😉 In these books so much is worked with symbolism and deeper themes, love, death, friendship, historical events rehashed, theological themes processed. 

I have read all the books veeery often and every time I discover something new. 

What’s the last thing you watched on TV/internet/Netflix and why did you choose to watch it?

The last series I watched was “The Rookie”. I had it on my watchlist for a while because I like Nathan Fillion. The last movie I saw was “Coco”, my absolute favorite Disney movie, even knocked “The Lion King” off its throne. It’s a really beautiful film about family, life and death, set in Mexico.