People think that when you’ve finished the intense period of treatment and are on maintenance chemo that everything should be fine, but for me this is when I became the most ill.
I had a really bad infection at the start of August 2019 while I was on a residential weekend with other cancer patients. I had a high temperature, so the staff took me to the nearest hospital. I was there for two weeks.
Two or three days after being discharged it started again. I was admitted to my local hospital, where scans showed I had pneumonia, and I ended up in intensive care. When I was stable, they discharged me with a lot of medication, but I kept throwing up. After taking one medication I couldn’t move my mouth. When I looked in the mirror, it had moved to one side, almost like I was having a stroke.
This time, I went to the UCLH emergency department. I went downhill quickly. In addition to having a range of medicines, I had to be fed through a picc line, had a catheter, and be on oxygen. At this point, I thought, “I don’t think I am going to finish this. I can’t even see the finish line.”
I told my parents that I might not make it through and that they should prepare themselves for the worst. They were really upset and angry at the situation. I prepared myself for the fact that I may die too. It was difficult but I thought of all the positive things in my life. I came to peace with it and I was happy for what I had achieved in my life to that point.
Marlies, the Teenage Cancer Trust Youth Support Coordinator, has known me since day one. When I was going through this intense time, she was there for me more than ever to encourage me to keep going and keep fighting.
She knew me so well and she said later that she saw the light go out in my eyes. She knew I was thinking I wouldn’t make it through. I remember her saying to me, "Hiral, don’t give up. You’ve come such a long way, why would you give up now? I believe in you so you should believe in yourself."
That was when my eyes opened. I thought: "Wow. She believes in me so I can’t let her down." She was encouraging me, saying: "I’m here every step of the way." Even when she was on leave, she would still message me. It kept me motivated to hang in there and I started to get better.
I remember her encouraging me to get out of bed and to do activities, like colouring. Simple as it is, it was quite therapeutic and a distraction from what was happening.
I definitely think I wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for Marlies. She’s impacted my treatment that much. She understands the whole picture. Having her as a bridge between me and the medical side has been really important.
When you go through treatment, you lose a lot of friends, so you need people you can rely on. Marlies has been consistent with me and that bond is quite special. It’s made a huge difference to my treatment and my life.