Age: 15

Cancer type: Hodgkin lymphoma

"When I was 15, I’d had a bad cough for about a month and I was tired a lot but initially I just thought it was because it was Winter. It wasn't until I found a lump under my arm that alarm bells went off and I got a doctor's appointment.

While the doctor was checking me over he found a lump on the side of my neck which was the size of a golf ball. I hadn't seen it because of my hair. He did a blood test but the results came back clear and the doctor said I was fine. Despite that, I still wasn’t feeling well so I went back to the doctors again 3 weeks later and they referred me to the hospital.

Further blood tests came back clear, as did an X-Ray. It wasn’t until they did a biopsy on my neck that they found out that something was wrong.

I’d thought it would be ok because the blood tests had been clear and when the consultant told me it was Hodgkin lymphoma I didn't know what that was. It wasn’t until she said the word cancer that it hit me. I couldn’t see for tears and I shut off at that moment. I just zoned out.

My mum and gran had come to the hospital with me and they were heartbroken and distraught. The rest of my family were at work and I didn’t want to deliver the news over the phone so I had to wait until they’d come home to sit them down and tell them one by one. It was so hard.

I was diagnosed at the start of January 2017 and I went in for treatment 3 weeks later; it all happened so quickly. I’d met my consultant and because I was Stage 3 AS I had to have 6 months of chemotherapy at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow. Luckily, the cancer was in my spleen and hadn’t spread to my bloodstream.

I was really scared before my first session of chemotherapy session as I was expecting the worst. I thought it would hurt but the nurses put the drip in and it didn't hurt at all. The experience wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. The nurses were amazing and were a big part of my life. I knew them all on a first name basis and they talked to me and made me laugh during a difficult time.

I also didn't know if my hair would all fall out after that first session. One of my first thoughts when I was told that I had cancer was ‘oh no, I’m going to lose all of my hair’. My hair was my everything, I loved doing it. I dyed it blonde not long after my diagnosis because I wanted to experiment while I could. My hair did start to slowly fall out and it was heart-breaking. It was a slow process and it was coming out while I was brushing it or in clumps in the shower.

I wasn’t ready to shave it all off initially, but I did in the end. It was upsetting but I knew that it wasn’t the end of the word and that it would grow back at some point.

I had to take a 6-month break from school while I had the treatment. I was just about to start my preliminary exams when I was diagnosed, and I knew there was no way I could concentrate on them while thinking about what was to come next.

Some of my friends didn’t know how to react when I told them I had cancer, so it was nice for me to be able to go through to the Teenage Cancer Trust unit at the hospital and meet people who understood what I was going through and to hear their experiences. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone.

Rónán, the Youth Support Coordinator, was also there if people were feeling down and wanted to talk to him. He often organised activities and day trips which helps keep your mind off what is happening. There is also a big cinema screen, cinema chairs, a pool table on the unit, along with a kitchen where you can heat up your own food, so you didn’t have to have hospital food.

It really helped to have the Teenage Cancer Trust unit at the hospital. I was having my chemo on a day unit where there were sick babies and that was heart-breaking, so it was good to be able to get away from that for a bit and be around other people my age.
I had a mid-treatment scan which was positive and showed that the cancer had really reduced and that I didn’t need radiation. It was fantastic.

Bon Jovi was my inspiration all the way through my treatment. I would listen to them because I grew up loving Bon Jovi and everything they do. The song Bad Medicine really related to me because at the time I called my chemo my bad medicine and listening to Keep the Faith and Living on a Prayer kept me strong also.

I felt drained and tired while I was going through chemo, but I refused to let cancer stop me doing what I loved.

I still enjoyed hanging out with my friends and going out for dinner. I wanted to stay positive not only for myself but for my friends and family too. I didn’t want to be defined by the fact that I had cancer and I didn’t want my life to revolve around treatment. I thought 'yeah, I have cancer but my name isn't cancer'.

I finished all my chemo in July and I was told I was in remission in August. It was the most amazing feeling and such a weight off my shoulders. Beating cancer was my proudest moment. Having had cancer has given me a new perspective on things as when you get that diagnosis you realise you aren’t immortal and you won’t live forever. I have been given a second chance at life and I am making the most of it. I’m back at school and enjoy spending time with my friends and being a normal teenager again."

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