"As a fit and healthy 21-year-old student, you don't expect to be told you've got cancer. However, this is what happened to me. At any stage in your life, a cancer diagnosis is a massive shock, but it seems particularly cruel when it's a child or young person on the receiving end. At a time when you're learning, socialising and getting excited about the future as you find your feet in the world, last thing you want is to be cooped up in a hospital receiving gruelling treatment for a disease you wouldn't wish on anyone.
We all know of the hardships associated with cancer and my experience of it was certainly tough, but it would have been significantly worse had it not been for Teenage Cancer Trust.
Like many young people, my diagnosis was complicated. After pinball-ing between various doctors, different tests and medicines and a misdiagnosis, I was eventually told I had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL), for which the treatment lasted 3 years. The feeling of being told that news is like no other. It's a mixture of sadness, fear, anger and confusion all bundled together in a frenzy of disbelief.
I was a music student in Leeds at the time and I made the decision to stay there for my treatment after seeing Teenage Cancer Trust funded unit 94 at St James' Hospital. At the time, there were no such facilities available near my hometown in Suffolk so the choice of coming back home for my treatment was not there. I'm lucky enough to have a wonderful family; my Mum moved up to Leeds to support me and we both benefited from Teenage Cancer Trust.
The Teenage Cancer Trust unit I was treated on was a true life saver for me. It had a feel of a youth club, where young people can hang out and occupy their minds and, at times, made you forget you're even in a hospital. The wonderful support team, all funded by Teenage Cancer Trust, were there to organise fun activities, massage and relaxation, social events outside the hospital and sometimes were just there as someone to talk to when times were hard. Visiting hours were from 10am –10pm so my friends and family could come and see me whenever they liked. The community spirit was high and I made friends for life on the unit – nurses and patients!
There was a parents' lounge and plenty of different spaces to make you and your carer's time in hospital as comfortable as possible. I was on the unit for quite a few months and, yes, it was difficult after a while and I definitely would have preferred to have been out in the real world, however, for me, the unit started to feel like a home. At a time when I felt a bit lost in life and my health was in chaos, Teenage Cancer Trust gave me a sense of purpose and a reason to smile among all the madness of having cancer.
Thankfully, my story has a happy ending. I went on to graduate from university and become a practicing artist and am now 6 years cancer free and fully recovered. Many of my friends weren't so fortunate, which is why it is vital we keep on supporting Teenage Cancer Trust as it provides a service that makes such a huge difference to a young person and their supporting family as they are going through cancer."