Age: 23

Cancer type: Hodgkin lymphoma

In the summer of 2019, I was finding it hard to stay awake at my desk. I’d just started my first full time job, so I put it down to that.

I was on my lunch break and I put my hand up to my neck and felt two large lumps just above my collar bone.  

I went to the doctor’s surgery and he referred me to haematology. I also met Kerrie, the local Teenage and Young Adult Clinical Nurse Specialist for Teenage Cancer Trust. I didn’t think anything of that at the time, I was just glad to have her with me across the next five months while they tried to work out what was wrong with me.  

Rachael in hospital during her treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma

I was due to find out the results of a CT scan on Christmas Eve, but Kerrie heard about the appointment and it was brought forward to the 20th December. I was told that I had Hodgkin lymphoma. I’m glad that I didn’t find out on Christmas Eve. 

I had to spend my Christmas thinking about whether I wanted to delay my chemotherapy to have fertility treatment. I’ve always wanted to have children, so it weighed on my mind over the holiday season.

Christmas is a time when you talk about your future and what the next year will hold and I didn’t want to be around those conversations. I also didn’t want to upset people or for them to feel sorry for me, so we missed out on being with our extended family.  

Rachael with her Teenage Cancer Trust nurse Kerrie

Once again Kerrie was there for me over Christmas. By now she knew me well and it was nice to be able to talk to her about it. I chatted to Kerrie about anything that was worrying me rather than add that worry to my parents.   

She helped make Christmas feel less scary for me.

Even though everyone’s Christmas plans are quite uncertain because of the pandemic, I’m definitely looking forward to it much more than I was last year. It’s my last Christmas before I get married so I will spend Christmas Day with my mum and dad. We don’t have any big Christmas traditions. Spending some quality family time together without any cancer worries will be enough for us.  

Rachael at home with her fiance

My fiancé Dean and I have just moved into our first home so we will spend Boxing Day together there. We have already bought a few Christmas decorations and hope to get our tree soon. 

Kerrie is still there for me now and I will stay in touch with her over Christmas. She was such a big part of Christmas last year that I am looking forward to staying in touch with her in a happier environment this year.