Tuesday 6th June 2017
"One thing I was keenly aware of when I was diagnosed with cancer at 23, was how little I actually knew about the disease, and more so how little I knew about it in young people. You try to think about it as something that won’t happen until you’re older, so it’s not something you have to concern yourself with.
The signs of my cancer, Ewing sarcoma on my lower spine, were not quite as obvious as they were for bone cancer in other areas of the body or indeed for other types of adolescent cancers. I had the symptoms of sciatica, which both myself and my GP agreed it was. However, neither of us considered cancer as an option – it wasn’t until an MRI scan to potentially diagnose something else that a ‘mass’ was discovered. I suppose I am lucky that this fast-growing cancer was doing so much damage to my nerves that we had to find it. But I had no education on spotting the signs of cancer at school or university, so how was I supposed to know what is was?
For too many young people, their cancer will go unnoticed until it’s too late. They need to know that although having cancer wouldn’t be the nicest experience, that being aware it could happen and knowing the signs could save their lives. They need to know that they and their families will know if something doesn’t seem right, and that doctors may not always be correct when they say ‘most young people are tired’ and that ‘they will grow out of it’. They should feel empowered enough to push for blood tests, scans, and more GP visits without the fear of feeling like a hypochondriac if it turns out to be nothing, so they will come back if they are affected by the disease at some point later in their lives.
Schools and universities are crucial platforms to educate young people on a mass level. And even if it only affects one person in that school or university, it may just be the reason that that person is able to live a long and happy life."
Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophievohra