I was in the last year of my A Levels when I started to feel a bit weird. I had a cough for a few months which I couldn't shake. I was given antibiotics, but they didn't work and so, when I went back to the GP again, he said he thought I might have pneumonia.
I went to A&E where they took some blood. I went home still feeling bad - I was sweating, had a temperature of 40 degrees, and I felt really dehydrated. My mum got a call the next day saying that we had to go to the haemotology department. We were told that I might have cancer and I was in intensive care for a few days while they did more tests.
I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML), a cancer of the blood. I think it hit my family a lot harder than it did me and my mum cried. I couldn't really believe it and I just asked when I could go back to school. After a few days, it was apparent that wouldn't happen, and I had to start chemo pretty quickly.
I had two types of chemo and four cycles altogether. The chemo just kind of wipes you out and with no immune system, you do get infections. I had sepsis three times, which was horrible. Unfortunately, the chemo can have many effects and they did a scan on me and now I have mild to moderate heart failure. It could improve over time as I get better, but it could just stay there for life.
To start with, I was in the adult ward as there was no room in the Teenage Cancer Trust unit. The adult ward wasn't great, as the rooms are very small and I didn't see the doctors or nurses much. They were amazing, but they had so many people to deal with - they did the medical part then had to move on.
Most of the people in my bay were 70 or 80, so I had no-one to talk to and I felt quite lonely. I didn't leave my room for about two weeks.
Being moved to the Teenage Cancer Trust unit made such a difference. I had my own room with a desk and places for friends and family to sleep. It was nice having them there when I didn't know what was going on and I was a bit worried. It was great to have a place to entertain them as there was a football table, a pool table and PS4.
Touches like that make it feel less like a hospital.
The other patients in there were around my age so I had people to talk to who were going through similar experiences too. The nurses were more personable and felt more like friends. They checked how you were doing emotionally as well as physically. The Clinical Nurse Specialist, Jax, was amazing with me and my family. They didn't always know what was going on so Jax would update them by text or email.
When you first hear you have cancer, you feel disconnected, but when you join the community you feel more relieved, more accepted, and you feel better as you know there's people going through the same as you and they won't treat you differently. So it was fantastic being able to go to one of Teenage Cancer Trust's annual Find Your Sense of Tumour events.
There was a speech from a woman who has suffered 98% burns and her story was really pertinent as she had gone through so much and was doing so well in her life - it made me feel that I hadn't been through anything in comparison and I needed to step up. It was really inspiring. The fertility talk was interesting as I had no idea about the fertility side of it, and the talk on travel insurance was perfect for me as I knew I was going to go travelling and I learnt what I didn't need to disclose and how to save money on my insurance.
The social side of it was good too. There was a comedic band that got people on stage and I performed a dance with the other young people from Bristol. We also dressed up as our heroes villians. I went as The Joker and there were people dressed up as superheroes, but the girl who won the competition was dressed as her brain surgeon, which was brilliant. It was cool to meet so many people who were in the same boat as me, and I've met a few people for drinks since.
My school has been amazing throughout all of this, as have the universities I applied for. I couldn't complete all my exams and coursework but I was given an unconditional place based on the work I did, and I will be studying Politics and International Relations at Sheffield University. I'm taking the year out and I am travelling around Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. I had to research places that would do blood tests and send the results back to my hospital and so far they are looking good.
It's great that I can still follow my dreams and live my life, and I am determined to make the most of every minute.