Like many young people, my cancer diagnosis didn't come very quickly. It wasn't easy convincing anyone I wasn’t well.
It all started with an uncomfortable pain in my side. It wouldn't go away so I visited my GP, and after some pestering, I was sent for a scan to look for possible endometriosis. The scan actually showed a 7cm cyst in my left ovary. The doctor told me it would have to be removed through key-hole surgery, but I would be on a waiting list as it wasn't urgent.
I wasn't happy with this at all. For the eight months I waited for that operation I was bothering every doctor I could find, telling them that I just felt wrong. Nobody would listen, but I knew something strange was happening because I was constantly tired. I quit everything I loved, I'm a singer and musical theatre performer but I stopped performing completely.
I remembered the cancer awareness session we’d had in school a few years ago from Teenage Cancer Trust really vividly, and I remembered them telling us to be persistent if we felt something wasn’t right. I listened to this, and I might not be here today without that advice.
When the time came to remove the cyst, I told the surgeon I had concerns, and for the first time someone listened to me. In hindsight, this conversation may have saved my life. The surgeon agreed to have an extra look about while he was in there. When I woke up from my operation the surgeon had removed the cyst but had also found something else. He thought it was scar tissue and sent it for testing. He told me it was most likely an infection.
A few weeks later he called my parents on a Friday. I wasn't in but he told them to come with me for an urgent scan on Monday. I said to my parents "I think I have cancer" but they thought I was being dramatic. I just knew it. On the Monday, I had the scan and met with the surgeon. He said he had the results from the tissue he’d sent away.
He said: "Its cancer." I don't remember the rest of the meeting. I couldn’t speak. I felt numb. How could this be happening to me? I was 19 and scared. I felt alone.
They didn’t know where the cancer cells had come from so I needed another operation to look for and remove the source. However, I had to wait a month. My operation was on 31 December 2012, so no New Year celebrations for me! My surgeon said the cancer was probably small because it hadn’t been picked up on the scan. They couldn't have been more wrong.
When I woke up I found out I had a rare form of ovarian cancer called serious carcinoma. They had removed my ovaries, fallopian tubes, appendix and omentum. It felt horrible to suddenly be infertile. I can never conceive a child, which still hurts me. I also started my menopause at just 19, something else my friends wouldn't understand. This was a really difficult time. On top of all this, I was told I'd need six months of chemotherapy.
Chemo started in February and by March I had no hair. This was hard for me because my hair had been my crowning glory. Chemo was difficult; I became very sick and fragile. I have been a Christian for years and this really challenged my faith. I questioned how a caring God could do this to me. This time was also hard for those closest to me too, but they helped me pull through. I kept my brave face on to please everyone around me.
Keeping up with my studies was also hard. I didn't want to quit university so I got friends to bring work to the hospital or my house. I struggled but luckily just made it through to the third year.
Life after cancer
To keep my mind off what was going on I started fundraising and threw a massive concert in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust. Since then I have become involved in other projects with them which is so much fun, and really rewarding! I have been working with the Teenage Cancer Trust education team to help get the message heard - you must be persistent with doctors if you think you are unwell.
Having cancer has been the hardest time of my life, but I want other young people to know they can pull through. My advice for anyone facing a cancer diagnosis is that the best help and support will come from your close friends and family. Always remember to think positively if you can, and try to enjoy the little things. Don't ever give up even when you feel like it. Sometimes courage is that little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.