A UCC student battling a rare form of cancer has said there “aren't enough words in the dictionary” to convey how grateful she is to those who have donated to her GoFundMe page, raising money for her medical treatment.
Julia Banasiak, originally from Poland, moved to Limerick with her family 13 years ago and has been living in Cork ever since getting into UCC in 2017.
On a warm day in May 2020, the 21-year-old dentistry student was wearing a vest top when her mother noticed a bump on the back of Julia’s right shoulder.
“We were immediately concerned about it and I contacted my GP straight away,” Julia told.
“Things were made harder by the fact it isn't an area I'd normally notice. I found out later that the tumour originates from the shoulder blade.
“It was terrifying to know that something like this could have been so easily overlooked for even longer, had I not dressed like this on a warm day.
“I've always watched out for my health, I try to regularly do blood tests, but this didn't help here- it turns out that my type of cancer doesn't show up in bloods,” she continued.
The tumour was operated on and in October 2020, Julia received the devastating diagnosis of chondrosarcoma, a form of bone cancer.
“I was terrified and shocked when the labs returned after my first operation.
“It was made worse by the fact I did not expect this.
“It was hard to tell until after the operation, but the doctors were convinced until this point that the tumour was benign.
“Because of this I was even more shaken,” she said.
On December 3, Julia underwent a second operation, this time much more radical, which she hoped would render her cancer-free, but sadly this was not the case.
“The pathology report has indicated a ‘higher histological malignancy grade’ in the parts that were cut out.
“The cancer cells are more dangerous than at the start. It also showed that the margin in one of the areas is too thin, and so, the sarcoma is still in my body.”
Julia is now set to undergo a third operation and her difficulties have been compounded by the pandemic.
“After carefully weighing my options, my family and I decided it would be best if I seek treatment in my home country of Poland.
“I had my first operation there, still when it was thought the bump was benign, and it was simpler to continue there;
“I was referred to a specialist cancer hospital.
“We had to fly over for every single consultation, appointment, and for both operations I had last year.
“This meant that upon return to Ireland we had to restrict our movements several times. I missed weeks of university, which in my case was not online, but practical.
“My parents missed work, which of course caused financial problems.
“I'm now awaiting my third operation in Warsaw and my family is with me so those problems still continue,” she said.
As well as the support of her family, friends and her boyfriend, Julia says counselling has been an invaluable tool in helping her to cope.
“I'd like to take this opportunity to highlight how important it is to get professional help, whether the problem is a cancer diagnosis or any inkling at all that one's mental health is affected. It's always worth a try.”
If you would like to donate to Julia's fundraiser visit her GoFundMe page.