"It would be easy to become my cancer in a way, to let it take over my life, but I am not going to let that happen. I am focusing on living my life."

Inglewood woman Emily Foreman's cancer journey began at the start of last year, with a small lump behind her ear.

That small and innocuous lump led her doctors to discover a cancerous tumour in her main saliva gland.

At the age of 20, while her friends were studying, working and generally enjoying life, Emily was thrust into a world of medical appointments, radiation treatment and a six-hour surgery to remove the tumour.

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"To ensure that they had removed all of the cancer they needed to take some of my main facial nerve. Unfortunately this left part of the right side of my face paralysed."

Emily had been working as an early childhood teacher, and she remembers thinking she wouldn't be able to return to the job she loved, despite the success of the surgery.

"A physical therapist said I wouldn't be able to lift much anymore, and as an ECE teacher, you pick up children and hold babies all the time. I also worried the scars I had would scare the children."

Fortunately, this wasn't the case, and Emily returned to work at BestStart Mangorei Road, where she says staff, parents and the children have been incredibly supportive.

In February this year, Emily faced a new challenge.

"At the first CT scan after the radiation, I was told they had discovered multiple lesions across both my lungs; meaning the cancer had spread."

Her specialist says the best option for treatment is immunotherapy.

Last week, tests showed the lesions have increased in size meaning she needs the immunotherapy soon. As immunotherapy isn't funded in New Zealand for this type of cancer, Emily and her family have to pay privately.

The cost will be over $60,000.

Emily says despite her battle with cancer, she refuses to let it win, and instead looks for the positive in her experience.

"I am actually a lot more confident now than I was before all this. I used to never go out without makeup on, whereas now I am less worried about that. I think being positive can make a difference to how you deal with something like this."

She hopes her story will also encourage other people facing medical challenges.

"I think it is important to stay positive in your attitude and not give in. As long as there is hope, there is a reason to fight, to keep going. I'm not letting the cancer take charge of me. I am in charge, not the cancer."

Emily has a givealittle page set up to help her fund her treatment:
Donations can also be made at any McDonald Real Estate branch in Taranaki.