Even if it is nothing, is it not best to check?
Olivia was 20 when she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer of the tongue and lymph nodes. She was diagnosed just in time for her cancer to be treatable, and now urges other young people not to put off getting any health worries checked out.
At 19, I was like most teenage girls and loved going out drinking with my friends. I weighed 23 stone and didn’t have a healthy lifestyle, but I was enjoying my teenage years.
I noticed something on my tongue and thought it was a reoccurring ulcer. It wasn’t particularly painful to start with. Then it started getting bigger. Because I was dating someone at the time, I was worried that it might be an STI. It put me off going to the doctors for about seven months.
When I eventually went to see a doctor, aged 20, I was shocked when they said that I had tongue cancer. It had spread to my lymph nodes. If I had left it much longer to see the doctor I might not be here today, as I was told that it would have soon spread across my body.
I was given the option to have treatment on an adult ward, or on the Teenage Cancer Trust unit at The Freeman Hospital. They said I’d receive my own room there and be treated around other young people by staff trained to look after us. I jumped at that.
I had my radiotherapy mask fitted a few days later before starting 30 sessions of radiotherapy and six rounds of chemo. I also needed an operation to get the last bit of the tumour out.
I would encourage people to get anything that worries them checked.
Penny, my specialist nurse, would contact me daily to make sure I was well enough to come in for my treatments. And Chris, the Teenage Cancer Trust Youth Support Coordinator, came to see me every day and left me encouraging notes like “You’re doing great”.
I finished my treatment in May 2016 and recovered well. My weight had dropped from 23 stone to 16 stone because of my treatment.
Afterwards, I decided to lead a healthier lifestyle as cancer put things in perspective. I stopped going out drinking as much and started going to the gym. I met my partner Michael there on the first day and he has been an amazing support. I’m now about 12 stone and healthier than ever. I’m scared the cancer might come back, but I can’t let that rule my life.
I would encourage people to get anything that worries them checked. Sometimes you feel ashamed about going out and getting with people, but doctors are professionals who are there to help. They could save your life if it turns out to be something like cancer. If not, it’s a weight off your mind.