Ella's Cancer Journey

Trigger warning: this piece discusses themes of medical procedures, cancer, and suicide ideation. 

On the 8th of May 2023, I noticed shadowing in my eye so I called my optometrist to arrange for him to have a look. Three days later, as I went back to him, I had zero vision in my eye. He said that my retina had detached and that I needed to be in surgery in at least 48 hours. The next day, we prepared for a surgery - only to find out the worst news I’ve ever heard in my life.

I was diagnosed with an extremely rare cancer that has never been seen before in a young person. I was told that I needed to prepare for my eye to be removed. They told me I needed to go to Auckland to get a second opinion, so six days later, I was off to Auckland. The specialist there had a look and said he could see a haemorrhage but no cancer tumour. I asked him, “Does that mean I don’t have cancer?” He said, “I can’t see anything, so, no, you don’t have cancer.” I was told to come back in six weeks once the bleeding goes down.

My family and I celebrated the win of a false diagnosis. We went back to my hometown to ask questions. Why did they give me a false diagnosis? Why did they see a tumour? I was furious! They said, “We can’t see the tumour anymore, we only see the haemorrhage.”

A few days later, I had my school ball and had an awesome night but I was in so much pain. I came home early and had an MRI the next day. All went well, then I went home and had a nap. I woke up in the most excruciating pain I could ever imagine, I was rushed to the emergency department. 

I was swarmed with people and tests as soon as we got through those doors. Two days later, I was told there was no other option but to remove my eye. This was such a traumatic time for me and all of my whānau. We were told there were a few complications during surgery, as they removed my eye they found a hole and fluid leaked back into the socket. They cut my eye and it was full of a 22mm tumour. This meant I had to have radiation treatment for the next six weeks. After this, I noticed my eye started to shrink and become deformed. Five months later, I had to go and have a reconstruction fat graph surgery to fix that. Then, I found out it hadn’t worked and needed a lot more reconstructive surgery. Recently, I found out how invasive this cancer can be - if it comes back, it will go to my liver and will be extremely hard to save.

Throughout this journey, I lost hope. I didn’t think I was going to make it. I questioned the world and I just wanted to die. I felt like I couldn’t fight anymore.

Now, I am standing here cancer-free! I am still going through surgeries and tests all the time but I am here. I made it through. My goal is to share my story, to inspire others, and to show that there is hope. No matter what you are going through, your feelings are valid and you matter in this world. You can follow along on my journey on Instagram @EllsNZ29 and TikTok @EllasFight

Thank you for reading my story and remember the world is better with you in it!


Voices of Hope wants you to know that you do not have to do this alone. Click here to 'find help' - it's not weak to speak!

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