Age: 23

Cancer type: Bowel cancer

"When I first started to feel unwell, I had just started my first year at university, studying Civil Engineering...

I am mad about football and at every chance I was out, kicking a ball around with my friends. I had a very social lifestyle and enjoyed meeting up with my friends and eating out.

When I was diagnosed I had just started a graduate programme with Barratt Homes as an Assistant Site Manager.

Suddenly, my life as I knew it came to a halt, and was put into the hands of the amazing medical team.

I think I was ill for around 3 years before my diagnosis. I was tired, had fevers, experienced bleeding and struggled to gain weight, but every time I went to the doctors they said I was too young to have cancer. I suspect, because of my age and the rarity of the cancer type, that they had dismissed it as a possibility.

I remember receiving a letter from the hospital to attend an appointment at the LRI. Through the whole journey the only thing that was discussed was the possibility of some sort of bowel disease so, I expected to go to the appointment and be told I had Chron’s or something similar.

I turned up on my own, sat down, and was told I had cancer.

After months of tests and examinations, my diagnosis was stage 3 colorectal cancer, that had spread to lymph nodes.

From there on the appointment was the longest ever. They had to explain what was going on but, all I could think about was telling my family.

I had to get out that room and ring my family and when I did, I broke down into tears.

I remember driving home where everyone was to meet me and it was the longest 30-minute journey of my life. I managed to stay very positive straight away and knew that I would fight it all the way. Even my family were quite surprised at how strong I was.
My treatment was at Royal Leicester Infirmary, and involved pre-surgical chemotherapy and radiotherapy for 6 weeks. I experienced burning on my skin and tiredness from the radiotherapy. The chemo made me sick and tired, and I had hypersensitive nerves. I got nerve damage in my hands and feet, and temporary nerve damage to my spinal cord.

After this I had major abdominal surgery to remove the tumour. I suffered major surgical complications which involved severe sepsis and after going into septic shock, I spent several days in intensive care, followed by several weeks in hospital. I eventually ended up with and ileostomy and a colostomy due to the removal and break down in my bowel. After I finally recovered from my surgical issues, I started 6 months of postoperative chemotherapy.

Luckily, my surgical recovery was spent in a side room due to my age, and that’s where I had regular visits from the Teenage and Young Adult team. My family was even allowed to stay over, which they did when I was feeling particularly low.

Due to surgical complications, I stayed on the Teenage Cancer Trust unit for around 2 months where I was looked after incredibly well, and treated with so much respect. This was where all my postoperative chemotherapy was administered, and they made sure I was comfortable and well looked after throughout the whole journey.

I had lots of interaction with my Teenage Cancer Trust Youth Support Co-ordinator. I couldn’t have asked for a nicer person to look after me. They would always make sure I had everything I wanted, and that I was ok both physically and mentally. They were also always around to have a chat with me and members of my family, and would make sure I had the opportunity to get involved with activities. They are amazing, wonderful, and very very kind.

I have also been fortunate enough to go to the Teenage Cancer Trust Royal Albert Hall shows where I saw Paul Weller and Stereophonics amongst many other people. I also got the opportunity to go on stage where we took a selfie with thousands of people in the crowd taking pictures of us. It was truly amazing. I’m hoping to go to Find Your Sense of Tumour this year which I have been really looking forward to because in the past I've been too poorly to go.

To give something back, myself and my family have done lots of fundraising for Teenage Cancer Trust including fun runs, bake sales, and even our local beer festival supported the charity. In October my employer held a golf day, where the proceeds were donated to Teenage Cancer Trust. I talk a lot about the charity on my blog, to help raise the Teenage Cancer Trust profile.

Now, I’m back at work full time, as a Site Agent for David Wilson Homes. I've just purchased a home with my partner and we've moved in together. As I used to play football a lot, my next focus is to get my physical health back up and make my return to the pitch!

If I look back on my journey now, the most important aspects were staying positive and being open with your family and friends. As much as you are devastated inside, people are there for you. They want to help, they want to listen. Talking about it helps you get it off your chest. I would lose sleep because I was too stubborn to believe I had to tell someone about my feelings and thoughts yet, when I spoke to someone, I felt like a massive weight had dropped from my shoulders. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and keep yourself busy. That’s what I would say to myself 2 years ago.

Positivity is key! Go out there, don't give up, go kick cancers butt!"

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