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Q: Have friends and family been crucial to helping your recovery?
Imogen: Definitely. Not just the physical support but more so the mental support, having those people there who were always there just for you. Probably family the most. I have one best friend who’s been there the whole time and I think she’s been there always for me to just vent to and that kind of thing, but definitely my family the most.
Q: Who are your emotional crutches?
Imogen: Definitely family again. Mum and dad for sure. Mum and I are very similar, but I think this journey I’ve been on has a lot to do with mum as well. She was always there at the hospital with me, and although we do fight a lot, mainly because we’re so similar, it’s made us so much closer as well. And dad obviously. I think this journey has helped my relationship with family in all ways, it made us all closer. I feel like we were stuck in a bit of a rut before I was diagnosed and then everyone just came through a little bit after that. Not just in health ways, like everyone reconsidered their own health, but it made us all a lot closer which is nice.
Q: Cancer is something that affects everyone these days. Have you seen first hand how sarcoma affects more than just the diagnosed?
Imogen: The biggest way it was evident to me was when I had to tell my sisters that I had cancer. That was by far the most terrible day of my life having to do that. I think what really got me was how differently it affected people, even throughout the treatment. I think my youngest sister struggled a lot because mum was away from home. It’s not just the fact that I was going through cancer, but the fact that we had to move away from home. It definitely is not just isolated to the person going through it, but everyone and the community.
Q: What are you grateful for?
Imogen: My journey has made me grateful for those people that are around me. Coming from a small area made me realise how great everyone is…family, friends. Being diagnosed with cancer makes you realise who’s there for you, but also who’s there just to get the “kicks out of it” kind of thing, which sounds bad. You definitely find out who your true friends are and your family becomes closer, and thats what I’m really grateful for.
Q: Who inspires you?
Imogen: I think anyone that overcomes adversity. Not just the people who overcome cancer, but kids that get diagnosed with cancer. They’re truly inspirational. But anyone who overcomes adversity and is doing these amazing things are inspiring. I remember when mum and I would pull up at the children’s hospital ready for treatment and we’d see people in much worse situations than us. Sure, you know this cancer may be potentially fatal, but then you’d pull up in a car next to a single mother getting both her kids out of the van, both her kids in wheelchairs, severely disabled. It makes you realise that though your life isn’t great at the moment, you can still have a great life in the future. Whereas these kids, they’re not going to get better, ever. It inspired me to see that family keep going.
Q: What does the money raised and support mean to you?
Imogen: Going through the children’s ward, you notice that most kids have leukaemia. You simply assume when you ask them “What kind of cancer do you have?” that it is because it’s so much more common than sarcoma. I was lucky myself to go through treatment with four boys who also had osteosarcoma. I was lucky to be there at a time when other people knew exactly what I was going through. Obviously we were going through similar things to those with leukaemia, but it’s always a little bit different. Through charities such as Crutch4Sarcoma, and through what Dominique is doing, we’re able to raise awareness for the smaller kinds of cancers that people don’t hear about.
It was funny… the other day I was walking down the road and this lady stopped me on the road asked me what I’d done to my leg. I tried to soften it the blow a little bit, so I said softly that I’d had 0steosarcoma, I didn’t want to scare her away. But I still had to explain myself and say “It’s a rare form of bone cancer, often found in kids” just to have people understand what we’ve been through. People are so aware of other childhood cancers. But just to be know a little bit about sarcoma would be nice.
Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Imogen: I have no idea at the moment. I’m studying science at the University of Melbourne, and I would really love to go into the health and medical area, but I’ve seen so much I have no idea what area I’d want to go in to in particular. I’d also really like to be involved in health promotion, through the media and that type of thing. But at the moment I’m not completely sure.
Q: Body image is such a big issue for young people, how have you overcome issues with your own body / scars / crutches?
Imogen: I really struggled with my body image once I was better again. Before being diagnosed I was super sporty, had the fastest metabolism, and just really enjoyed sport. But then with the tumour in my leg and all the surgeries, I was told I’d never be able to run again. That’s what I found most devastating at the time. At 13 years old, running was my life. It was what I was good at. I truly couldn’t see myself getting through life without it. I think it connected with the whole body image issue because I kept thinking “How am I going to stay fit?”. I already had anxiety before I was diagnosed, and I think that just intensified it. Once I got better, I was 15 years old, and it was really quite common for girls to have those issues, too. Mum helped me a lot in dealing with it all.
There was also one instance, when we were getting my sister’s graduation photos taken that the photographer said to me, “ Do you want to change angles? It’s not your best.” I was so surprised, I never thought anyone would evre consider it to be an issue. I found it so odd. My scars have never come in to question for my own body image. I love them, I wouldn’t change them at all. They’re good icebreakers. But I still do, like a lot of girls, struggle with my body image, but it’s nothing to do with having had cancer. I mean, I have hair but I would easily go back to having no hair, it was like the best being bald. So much less maintenance!
Q: What is your definition of beauty?
Imogen: For me, beauty definitely comes from within. Anyone can be attractive from the outside, and I guess girls get caught up in what they think beauty is with all these models, but definitely I think beauty shines through you from the inside.
Q: What does self love mean to you?
Imogen: I think it comes back into body image: it’s being okay with what you’ve been given. Accepting that if you’ve had cancer, then you’ve had it – and thats okay, that was meant to be part of your life. Just being okay with who you are, all the different parts of yourself, because they’re all there for a reason.
A VERY BIG THANK YOU TO PHOEBE, GEORGE, GRACE AND IMOGEN FOR MAKING THIS PROJECT HAPPEN