Sunday 3rd November 2019
I was diagnosed at 21 and finished treatment at 22. These are the years most adults finally grow into themselves and achieve a sense of confidence that comes from trial and error and having survived your teen years.
Unfortunately cancer and cancer treatment often makes you feel like you're taking a step backwards. Many of us lose our newly found sense of independence and our confidence levels can take a hit.
When I had finished treatment, I was invited to attend FYSOT. I really wanted to but I felt nervous and I wasn't sure I was ready.
Part of me felt like I needed to hibernate and lick my wounds, the world was a little too scary.
At the encouragement of Teenage Cancer Trust, I decided I was going to go for it. I won't lie, the second I sent my forms I regretted it and I wanted to email saying I had changed my mind.
But I am so glad I didn't.
FYSOT was exactly what I needed. It was a weekend of meeting new people, trying new things and gently pushing me outside my comfort zone.
Over the weekend we attended talks and workshops - I personally chose to attend the mindfulness workshop as I felt it may be helpful for my new found anxiety. We had some really helpful information provided on fertility too in another workshop. Which workshops you attend are up to you, you pick what you want to know more about. The lectures are really informative and not too long (chemo brain!).
The absolute best part? The evenings!
We were treated to a live band who came in to play music for us, with a musical quiz followed by an open dance floor. Meals were delicious and plentiful and the staff couldn't be more helpful. On night 2, we all got involved in putting on a little show for the rest of the groups. It was a small skit of a few minutes and the theme was the circus. This felt daunting at first, but your level of involvement was up to you. We were also given a tonne of freebies and during the afternoon there was a host of things put on for us such as trying new hat styles, getting your face painted, mini massages, a make up masterclass and, if none of that is for you, then some free downtime.
I would highly recommend everyone who is given the opportunity to attend FYSOT do so. It really was a huge confidence boost and I made so many friends over the weekend.
The biggest thing for me was leaving with a sense of not being alone.
Being a young person with cancer is incredibly isolating. But here was a room full of people of varying ages, with different cancers and lives, who all understood. We all shared as much or as little as we wanted. There was no pressure, only support.
FYSOT has allowed me to broaden my view on what a cancer patient is.
Some of the people I met were living their lives to the fullest, their experiences only fuelling them further, whilst some, like myself, needed some time to lick our wounds and be reintroduced to everyday life a little more gently. It showed me the possibilities truly are endless and that we can all do whatever we set our minds to.
FYSOT sounds like a fun weekend away, which it absolutely is...but it's also genuinely life changing. That may sound like an exaggeration, but it was the best push in the right direction.
I am still in touch with so many of the people I met over that weekend, a year later, and I absolutely love seeing their progress over social media and meeting them at other Teenage Cancer Trust events.