Before I was diagnosed at 14, I was just a normal teenager, watching TV, going out with friends, and studying hard at school for my GCSEs. I had unexplained chest pains for 8 months but put it down to muscular pains.
But after a while I got more and more tired and then I lost a lot of weight and became deathly pale. Mum took me to the nurse, who sent me to the doctor who sent me to the paediatrician, who took a scan and then a senior paediatric oncologist informed me that they had found a large tumour in my chest.
At first, when I was told I had Hodgkin’s lymphoma I didn’t react at all because I had no idea what they were talking about. I didn’t even think young people got cancer, not teenagers anyway. I thought it was just old people and little kids, not people my age. Then when I realised it really was cancer, it was like everything went into slow motion and I went into shock. I only really reacted when the doctor said I would lose my hair and also couldn’t go on the holiday we had planned for the following week - that’s when I started to cry.
Other people, when I told them the news, cried or just asked too many questions- how was I? Was I sure? Did I get a second opinion? And the biggest one of all - was I going to die?
My treatment plan the first time was six months and then a few weeks of radiotherapy. I had six rounds of chemo and two weeks of radiotherapy the first time. Treatment was very rough - It made me very ill, and I had to be admitted to hospital as I had lost a lot of weight. By the end of treatment I struggled with tiredness and a temporary form of nerve damage so I had to be in a wheelchair and was in a lot of pain.
When I relapsed I had more chemo, which gave me more infections than the first time around and it also made me drowsy all the time. I had a stem cell transplant, which made it hard to eat for a while from some side effects like pain and sickness.
When I was on treatment, on my transplant particularly, I used to feel hopeless about my situation. Contrary to what people thought I wasn’t always brave. Teenage Cancer Trust never made me feel like I had to be brave. They understand that we’re young, that we can’t be brave all the time, or strong. They made it so much easier to cope with everything that was happening.
The first time I was diagnosed before the relapse I was treated on a children’s ward. Even though the staff were lovely, I was surrounded by little kids and never met anyone my own age. It was difficult for me to cope as I felt like no one understood what I was going through and felt really alone.
As soon as I was transferred to the Teenage Cancer Trust unit I met other young people with the same illness as me, going through the same things. No one my age had wanted to talk about cancer, not even my friends - it’s an uncomfortable topic, but on the ward there were all these young people wanting to talk about it. It was wonderful and the staff on the ward really are the most amazing people.
There was also always something to do to pass the time, like play computer games and pool, watch films, go on the internet and do arts and crafts organised by the Teenage Cancer Trust youth support coordinator.
Life after cancer
I've now finished treatment and as for my hopes for the future, I don't know really. I could do anything, go anywhere, in fact, I would love to travel! Cancer changed a lot of the plans I had for my future but I love writing, and have always loved writing, so I’m thinking of trying to pursue a career in script writing.
I just want to make the most of the third chance I have been given and Teenage Cancer Trust are a large part of why I am still around today, because they really did save me.
I am in my final months of my A Levels in Sixth Form and I've applied to my dream university to do my dream course: American Literature and Creative Writing. I co-run the school newspaper and I run the school Christian union and I love doing both. Honestly things are still tricky but I'm at a place now where I'm kicking butt like a normal person rather than kicking cancer's butt the whole time and that's a really nice change.
I still get scared every now and again – but I swim, and eat well (mostly), and I'm generally okay now apart from the usual post-treatment complications. I still write my blog, and I read (A LOT) and honestly I love it, I feel like I got this new second (well, third) chance. It still haunts me sometimes, all of the bad stuff, but I'm sure every person who's been through and seen what I have is haunted – but cancer's given me some amazing, and super inspirational, new friends to talk to whenever it gets too bad – and I owe all of it to Teenage Cancer Trust.