I went into hospital two days after my 19th birthday and I was diagnosed with cancer a week later.
I was experiencing intense symptoms for a year before. I was really tired, sluggish, putting on loads of weight and felt really down. The doctors suggested a range of things from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, hormones, the pill, or being anaemic. I was ill all the time and there wasn’t a week where I wasn’t in bed due to the pain. I was just a shell of a human being.
After my third visit to A&E they finally did a scan. I had my appendix out and went back in for the results. They didn’t tell me to take anyone with me, so I didn’t think it was serious. I was shocked when they told me I had a tumour. It was a relief in a way as I finally understood why I had been feeling so bad for so long, but it was also terrifying.
They’d discovered cancer in part of my appendix, but it had grown into my bowel. My cancer was quite rare and I was told that it’s usually found in old people who had recently deceased. Because I was so young, they operated on my bowel and large intestine to take the cancer out. They stitched them back together.
My mental health was impacted, and I was really distant. I didn’t tell anyone close to me as I was in denial for a time. I was already depressed and full of anxiety and now I had this and I didn’t want to reflect that on anyone else. I felt very isolated from everything.
I didn’t cry a lot; I was just silently sad for a long time and didn’t do anything about it.
Then Kerrie helped turn things around. She is the local Teenage and Young Adult Clinical Nurse Specialist for Teenage Cancer Trust and she really helped pull me out of my low mental health. I never would have come out of that alone. She was just always there. She was my rock.
I struggled with body image as I put on a load of weight. When I had surgery, it dropped off and I’d never been that skinny before. I felt like I was a completely different person. I felt dissociated from my body. I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it, but Kerrie was there from the start, so it was easy to open up to her.
The effect cancer had on my life was quite detrimental. I will always have a disability and I will always need to be near a bathroom. For a young person who should be quite sprightly and quite full of energy, I’m not full of energy.
Good mental health is so important to get through that and to keep yourself in a good place. That’s why Kerrie and people like Kerrie are so important.
If you’re a young person with cancer and need support with your mental health, please speak to your clinical team – they’ll do whatever they can to help you, including referring you to specialist support if needed.