I’m a gymnast, so I have always been very active. In May 2018 I had a lump on the side of my neck, but I ignored it at first as I thought I’d hurt myself training.
I was misdiagnosed for about three or four months. I went to my GP as you do when you don’t feel well, and was told it was an infection. But it had grown and got hard, as well as other lumps appearing.
When they told me I had Hodgkin lymphoma, I was completely thrown. The symptoms I had I didn’t realise were related to cancer. To me, cancer does have that ‘elderly’ face.
Claire Fowler, Teenage Cancer Trust’s Clinical Nurse Specialist, was with me from my diagnosis and throughout my whole journey.
I had to decide whether I wanted to postpone chemo to have IVF and have my eggs collected. It’s a difficult decision to have to make at 22, but I was thankful that I had the option and I decided to risk the cancer spreading as my chemo would only be a week later.
I had surgery to remove the largest lump then I had chemo as an outpatient. The side effects were so bad. I ended up in A&E a few times.
Throughout that time Claire was a friendly face and she helped me to keep going.
It’s taken a lot longer for me to meet people who are Black and Asian who have had cancer. When I was going through treatment, I was surrounded by lots of elderly white people and even at the events I didn’t see any young people who looked like me.
There is a taboo in the Black and Minority Ethnic community around cancer, and you are expected to deal with it in private, rather than reaching out to get support. I wanted to share my experience to encourage other Black and Minority Ethic young people to seek support from Teenage Cancer Trust, as the help I have had has been amazing. Everyone has differences, but to be within the BAME category, we just have a different battle to fight.
I’m a Christian and I had some other Christians tell me that I shouldn’t have chemotherapy, I should just trust in God and pray to get better. In the Bible it says ‘With everything choose wisdom’ so I was happy with my decision to continue to go to church and pray, but to also seek medical help.
When I heard that I was in remission I was happy and felt like I could breathe again, but I cried when I thought about the trauma I had been through.
Luckily the support from Claire didn’t stop just because my treatment stopped.