Taking the term rollercoaster in its verb format, “to move, change or occur in a dramatically changeable manner”, one can see the resemblance between this and a cancer diagnosis.
My rollercoaster started on the 4 October 2019 at 1am in Sydney. At the ripe old age of 23, I was diagnosed with stage 2B Hodgkin lymphoma with unfavourable factors whilst I was travelling the world to discover and learn about myself. Well, in fact what I learned was, life is unpredictable and it’s not guaranteed; put quite simply, you must treasure your existence with all your might.
Knowing I wasn’t alone
Prior to diagnosis, I was completely ignorant to the effects of cancer, its treatment and the aftermath. More so, I was ignorant to the special group of warriors who are subject to this disease every year.
Did you know that around 2,500 13-24 year olds are diagnosed with cancer every year in the UK? I was 1 in 2,500. It is now my duty to assist, support and give thanks to the amazing services available to this group, specifically through Teenage Cancer Trust.
I engaged heavily throughout my cancer journey with Teenage Cancer Trust , most prominently through activities such as support groups like Art Therapy (it is safe to say, I’m not the next Pablo Picasso!), and I am eternally grateful to this service for keeping me present, engaged and myself throughout the ordeal.
Getting involved during coronavirus
Due to the government guidance for coronavirus and the subsequent shielding advice, the sacred interactive offerings from Teenage Cancer Trust were suspended to be replaced with virtual sessions, which although they curbed the horrific sense of isolation for an hour, did not fill the void of the joy brought to every patient in the Teenage Cancer Trust unit.
When I was presented with the opportunity to support the charity during this time, I grabbed this with both hands. I was asked to participate in a virtual meeting with the Shadow Minister for Health & Social Care, Alex Norris, along with other young people whom Teenage Cancer Trust have supported.
This provided the opportunity to share our stories, raise our concerns and actively encourage the Minister to engage with cancer care for young people. We were also able to talk about the increased difficulties of cancer care during a global pandemic, specifically the amplified sense of isolation due to shielding, and explain why the links that Teenage Cancer Trust can provide by connecting young people to one another are so important.
One of the most interesting points raised, which sparked the interest of the Minister, was the reality of the diagnosis journey for cancer. Too often, young people are misdiagnosed with minor ailments over long periods of time, which subsequently amounts to a poorer prognosis further down the line.
The Minister seemed to identify with the young people very well. From this, I would love to see a blended approach between the government and charities to support this fabulous and incredibly strong group of young people.