I was 20 when noticed a lump on my collarbone. I had tests and was diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkin's lymphoma, just four weeks after I'd noticed my first symptom.
I was shocked but I think I knew deep down that something was really wrong. It was devastating for me but maybe even harder for my partner and family. I was in a new relationship and my partner Matt was great - he told me I'd be ok, I'd get through it, but it was difficult for us to deal with at such an early stage. I'm very close to my mum, she's my best friend, and I could only imagine what it must have been like for her.
I had to have surgery to remove the lump then four cycles of chemotherapy. The nearest Teenage Cancer Trust unit, at the Christie Hospital, is 57 miles away from where I live, and I couldn’t face the long journey to get to treatment and back when I was feeling so ill.
I was treated in my local hospital, and though the staff were very kind I felt very isolated – the other people being treated were 50 or 60 years old. I had symptoms that no one seemed to understand, and couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.
This was when Teenage Cancer Trust stepped in.
Even though I wasn't being treated on a unit, I was assigned a Teenage Cancer Trust team who would come out to me, both at my local hospital and at home.
The team supported me and my family through the tough times. To know there was a voice at the end of the phone was sometimes just enough to get me through the day. Somebody who understood the pain and symptoms I was experiencing, and for them to tell me it was normal and just a gruelling side effect really would put my mind at rest.
My nurse would come and visit me at home after I’d had my treatment, and those were always the best days. She always listened to me, reassured me and gave me sensible advice. I would hang on to those visits. My Youth Support Coordinator was fantastic too. She did the first level of a CBT course with me, which really helped me cope on bad days.
My Teenage Cancer Trust team were amazing after my treatment ended, when everyone expects you to be elated and go back to your normal life.
Everyone thought I was ok, but the truth was that I was in a spiral of anxiety and depression. I was fatigued, in constant fear of relapsing and had lost all my confidence – all sense of “the old me”.
My nurse spotted that I wasn't ok, and referred me on for treatment for anxiety and depression. She told me I could call her any time of the day or night. She was the easiest person to get hold of and my first port of call for pretty much everything. Anyone would be lucky to have her.
A week after I’d finished treatment, I was offered the chance to go to a Teenage Cancer Trust gig at the Royal Albert Hall with other young people with cancer. Although the old me would have jumped at the chance, I was anxious and begged my mum to let me off going.
On the morning of the trip I almost cancelled it, but my Teenage Cancer Trust team supported me and came up with a plan for what we would do if any of the things I was worrying about were to happen. Of course, none of these bad things happened and I had an amazing time. It was the first time I’d met other young people with cancer, and it opened me up to the fact that I wasn’t the only one suffering. It was great to just being “normal” with all these people who had been through similar things.
Since then, I’ve been to Find Your Sense of Tumour twice, the second time to speak to a packed room of 150 people – something I wouldn’t have thought possible at my lowest point. Matt and I have gotten married, bought our first house together, and had a baby! I’ve been in remission for four years, and I’m now a nurse working in intensive care.
I think of my Teenage Cancer Trust nurse often, and aspire to be like her.