"I was in a plain white room with an examination bed in it when the consultant called a nurse to come in. I wondered why she needed a nurse as well if she was only telling me my results.
My nerves kicked in. She said, "Ella’s results have come back. Her white cell count is very low. Ella has leukaemia." I felt numb, like the world had frozen.
I looked over to my right and saw my mum crying with her head in her hands. Then I started to cry, and my dad hugged us tight. The first words that came out of my mouth were 'I don’t want to die, I just don't want to die'.
I was 16, had just done my GCSEs and celebrated at my prom. I was working at a beauty salon, loved hanging out with my friends in town and going out for dinner. I was living life like any normal 16-year-old girl.
During the weeks leading up to this day I had been experiencing extreme tiredness, loss of appetite and weight loss, nose bleeds, and knee pain. I’d visited the GP 3 times, went to Watford General Hospital twice for an X-ray of my knee and a blood test, and ultrasound of my knee and calf. Finally, I went to the Hemel Hospital where I got my diagnosis: Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. All of this was within one month.
From August 2015 to the beginning of February 2016 I had intense chemotherapy on the Teenage Cancer Trust unit at UCLH, London. This included me being put on the new drug trial, that was four sessions of high dose methotrexate every 2 weeks for 3 months.
I was given steroids to help increase my appetite and fatten me up ahead of the gruelling chemo that was to come, but instead of gaining weight I was losing it. The consultants agreed to fit me with an E.G tube which went in via my nose to my stomach, so then we could relax as supplement liquid food would give me all the vitamins I needed for a steady weight.
That night I stayed in hospital just in case my body rejected the tube. I went for a walk around the ward and I felt like my heart was racing in my chest, I told my mum that I needed to go for a lie down as I felt tired. Little did I know what was in store over the next 24 hours.
Later on, I tried to get out of bed to use the toilet, but my legs wouldn’t hold my weight. I laid on my side and started to feel a weird sensation, my mum went to get a nurse and I fainted. I woke up the next morning with my room filled with 15 people. I was told I needed to go to intensive care and have a CT scan. A day later I woke up from sedation to be told I was having a gastroduodenal arterial bleed, and I had to have more than 10 blood transfusions. I was still losing blood, so they decided to get a specialist to come and perform the endoscopy. They needed a specialist because particular instruments were required that were even smaller than normal ones!
That’s when they discovered the bleed, so they sewed, stitched and stapled it to make sure it was not going to burst open.
After a 5 day stay in intensive care, I got discharged back to the Teenage Cancer Trust unit. The admission in ICU meant I had been bedbound and nil by mouth for 5 days. I’d lost all my strength and muscle in my legs and stomach. My stomach had to heal and become used to food again so at first I was only allowed to eat soft foods like soup, mash, and yoghurt. I had to learn how to walk unaided, and eat to get my weight up before they even thought about letting me go home.
My treatment from the first day to the last day on the Teenage Cancer Trust unit was amazing. It didn’t feel like I was in hospital at all, as I got to wear my own clothes and have friends and family at the unit.
I didn’t have to go to bed at lights out as there’s a day room with activities, games consoles and a TV. I also liked that no one woke me up early in the morning! I could lie in and the staff at the unit were like friends. The unit will always hold a special place in mine and my families heart.
Every Wednesday we had a breakfast club, where the pool table in the day room would be transformed into a table of sweet and savoury treats! Including pastries, cheeses, fruits, bagels with smoked salmon and smoothies and juice! We also had Domino’s pizza delivered every Wednesday evening, the delicious smell would waft through the unit.
I loved having my Youth Support Coordinator, Kate, around.
She always gave me advice, gave me activities to do when I was in isolation, and always checked in to see if I was ok, reassuring me and my family. She was lovely.
I really wanted to give back to Teenage Cancer Trust as they have given me so much within the darkest time of mine and my family’s life. I organised a charity disco event, so that friends and family could get together and have a drink and a nibble. My boss even organised the TOWIE star Liam Blackwell (aka Gatsby) to come and surprise me! It was a great night, and with everyone’s help we raised £11,000 for Teenage Cancer Trust.
When I first heard my diagnosis I was so scared of dying and everything that the word cancer is associated with, but after it sunk in, I tried my best to stay positive.
I would say to anyone facing cancer 'you’ve got this', stay positive whatever the big C throws at you, and try to keep your chin up no matter what!
Since finishing my treatment in February 2016, I've began my maintenance stage of treatment, which is a course of chemotherapy tablets that I must take every evening for 2 years. These can affect my blood count, so a community nurse does a weekly blood test to monitor it. I also have a meeting with my consultant every 4- 6 weeks in London, to check up on how I’m doing and give me the opportunity to ask any questions I have.
Currently I’m in college doing my first year of health and social care, and I'm hoping to find a part time job that I can work around my college hours. I'm enjoying watching YouTube videos, hanging out with my friends, spending time with my family, doing arts and crafts and baking and cooking."