"I was diagnosed with cancer on the day I was supposed to be moving to London for university...
We'd actually already moved half of my stuff into my new flat and had to go back and get it. I had a place at University of the Arts London to study Magazine Publishing and Journalism, but I've put it on hold for a few years now.
I didn't feel awful, but when I look back I didn't feel quite right. I just thought I was hungover all the time as I was living in Bristol and going out a lot. I had this big swelling on my neck and didn't know what it was, but I thought it was just my glands. I went to the doctor but it took quite a while to get diagnosed because they just brushed it off as they do with a lot of young people. But the swelling wasn't going down.
When they asked if they could meet me in the oncology centre it was pretty self-explanatory of what it might be. My mum and I met my consultant and he told me what was wrong and what I had - Stage 2 non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the neck and chest.
For the first few days I was kind of in shock. My friends were saying "Oh my God are you going to be ok?" And I was trying to stay positive about it.
I was diagnosed on the 11th and my first round of chemo was on the 23rd. I started on one treatment for 6 weeks, which started off working really well. The first 2 types of chemo I had were on the day unit, so I'd have my chemo and then go home, but the 3rd, 4th and 5th rounds I was in hospital for weeks. That's when you really need the Teenage Cancer Trust staff there because you get a bit of cabin fever. It's nice to know the world's still revolving.
I felt so rubbish when I was on treatment - I didn't want to meet anyone, I didn't want to get out of bed. I was feeling really weak because it just really knocks it out of you.
I hadn't been on the Teenage Cancer Trust unit to begin with, I'd been on an adult ward, but I decided to go to Bristol because of the unit there. There were people from all over Devon and Cornwall who'd also chosen to be treated there.
The Teenage Cancer Trust nurses made you feel so welcome on the unit, they took the time to care and make sure you were ok and comfortable.
The unit has a pool table, TV and games – it's just a really nice area to be when you're feeling pretty rubbish. The rooms have a TV in them which is good when you're lying in bed with nothing to do. I can't imagine not having the unit, I'd hate to be with everyone else on an adult ward because they don't treat you the same. There's a big difference when you get cancer as a young person and Teenage Cancer Trust really helps differentiate between the two and gives young people what they need during this horrible time.
On an adult ward you don't get the same affection and care that you do on the Teenage Cancer Trust units, you're just treated as a patient, not a person. They don't treat you like a young person and it's so much harder to deal with cancer for a young person because you're not as equipped with life, you've only got a young person's perspective and you've hardly even seen the world.
Every single day the staff put on something for you to do as you go a bit crazy. Having them and the unit there makes a rubbish scenario a whole lot easier to deal with. There's therapy, reflexology and there’s music therapy sessions where they bring in instruments and you just get to jam. It helps take your mind off the situation, music makes you feel so much happier.
There's also a bed for parents, so my Mum could stay over. My Mum's been there for the whole thing. She had a job that she could take the time off from to be with me for the last year and a half. My family have all tried their best to stay positive and make me happier. I had my stem cell transplant, with my brother Jack's cells, and we joked about it even when he was donating his stem cells to me. My Mum text him pictures saying "Look at all these cells going into your sister" - we do joke about it, we're that kind of family. Joking just makes everything that much easier.
Every time I come back to the ward the nurses always ask how I'm doing which is really nice. I feel like there's definitely a lasting bond with the support workers.They've been there in all the rubbish times and you rely on them. You get a happy feeling when you see them and you feel a bit better and safer when they're about.
I think all young people should have access to some sort of Teenage Cancer Trust unit or staff. It's so different for a young person, they’re young, naïve and they’re scared. They need nurses to hold their hand and the unit to keep their spirits up, otherwise it’s quite a dark place really.
Everyone feels overwhelmed at times. It’s a massive thing to happen to you when you're so young and not expecting it. You’re just starting your life and then something hits you and it just completely knocks you back.
My closest friends all went off to university so all of them are a couple of hours away. It's hard to see them carrying on with their lives and not be in the same place yourself.
Inside you're still this young person who wants to go out and have fun.
Cancer puts life in perspective. These things just kind of happen, I don't think it's unfair. Things happen, you get through them and it makes you a stronger person. It made me want to go out and do everything and enjoy every moment that I have. You have no idea what's going to happen so go out and do everything you can, have the most fun you can, stop whining about the petty things and have a nice time.
It was very touch-and-go in the summer. The doctors tried everything they had and none of it really worked. "We can keep going or we can stop," they said. "There's not much left that we can do for you." But as a young person you’re like: "No, I'm not going to give up", so I powered on through and here I am.
I'm about 5 months post-transplant now and in remission. I get my blood checked with the doctor every 2 weeks and I’m waiting and hoping it's not going to come back. It'll always be there in your mind. There's nothing you can do but stay positive, if you let all the negative thoughts overwhelm you then it'll completely ruin you. Get your friends, get your Mum, keep doing things and try to stay positive really, that's all you can do.
Next year I'm hoping to go and start my uni course in London."
Hear more of Holly's story in our video...