Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I was at university studying Zoology and working part-time in Costa. I loved going out with my friends and going to the cinema, and I went to the gym three or four times a week.
In December 2019, started getting a tight, chesty cough and I kept going back and forth to the doctors once or twice a week. I could barely walk up and down the stairs without getting out of breath. I lost quite a lot of weight because I lost my appetite. After I lost weight, a lump appeared in my neck.
A scan confirmed that I had Hodgkin lymphoma. I started my chemotherapy at the Teenage Cancer Trust unit at The Beatson Hospital. Because of COVID-19, I had to shield, which meant going through six months of treatment without seeing my mum. I was in for 10 hours at a time as a day patient and the treatment was brutal.
My mental health was alright during the diagnosis and treatment; it was after my treatment ended that it got to me.
It felt like there was a pressure on me to be happy at the end of treatment.
I started suffering from anxiety that the cancer was going to come back. I’d gone through six months of treatment and I kept thinking I’d have to go through it all again.
The worry consumed me. It was all I thought about every minute of the day and I checked my lymph nodes three times a day. It’s crazy how much it was messing with my mind.
On social media you just see and hear about the nice bits of people finishing their treatment, like people ringing the bell or having remission parties. You don’t hear about the thoughts that stay with cancer survivors or the long-term repercussions on the rest of their lives. It felt like there was a certain pressure on me to be happy and to be celebrating the end of treatment.
I’d been told early on in my treatment that there was a psychologist called Nicola at the Beatson who I could talk to if I needed to. I hadn’t needed her during treatment, but now that I did, it was good to know that her support was available.
I got on with Nicola straight away. It really helped that I felt comfortable with her as I was able to open up about how I was feeling.
I told her about the anxiety I was experiencing and my constant fear that the cancer would return, and she reassured me that it was normal for me to be having those feelings. She taught me a technique called Worry Time where I was only allowed to think about things at a certain time of the day and for a set amount of time.
I still have days when I am anxious, and I still use the techniques that Nicola taught me. It ensures that my anxiety doesn’t spiral.
Sometimes I have good days but sometimes I have bad days, and it helps just knowing that support is there.
If you need help with your mental health but you are worried about who to turn to, please don’t suffer in silence and please reach out. If you need the help then please take it; you are allowed to have your feelings and they are valid. The bad times are not spoken about enough, but it’s OK not to be OK.
If you’re a young person going through cancer and you feel you’re struggling with your mental health, please do speak to your clinical team, Teenage Cancer Trust Nurse or Youth Support Coordinator. They’ll do whatever they can to help you, which may include referring you to specialist support.
If you or someone else is in crisis and needs urgent help or further support, please visit: https://www.teenagecancertrust.org/get-help/urgent-help