Angel headshot

I ignored the lump at first as I thought I'd hurt myself training



Angel was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in August 2018. As a super-fit gymnast, the last thing she had expected was a cancer diagnosis. Now she’s drawing on her experience to raise awareness among other Black and Minority Ethnic young people. 

In May 2018, I had a lump on the side of my neck, but I ignored it at first as I thought I’d hurt myself training. I’m a gymnast and also teach gymnastics to children, so I have always been very active. I was misdiagnosed for about three or four months.

I went to my GP as you do when you don’t feel well, and was told it was an infection. But it had grown and got hard, with other lumps appearing as well. I was referred to the Ear, Nose and Throat department at St George’s Hospital.


When they told me I had Hodgkin lymphoma, I was completely thrown. I didn’t realise the symptoms I had were related to cancer. To me, cancer has that ‘elderly’ face. 

Claire Fowler, Teenage Cancer Trust’s Clinical Nurse Specialist, was with me from my diagnosis and throughout my whole journey. She was really helpful with financial stuff like applying for grants and made sure my employers kept my job open for me while I was in treatment.

There were a lot of opinions and myths around cancer pushed onto me.

I had to decide whether I wanted to postpone chemo to have IVF and have my eggs collected. It’s a difficult decision to have to make at 22, but I was thankful that I had the option and I decided to risk the cancer spreading as my chemo would only be a week later. 

Angel outside radiotherapy
Angel outside radiotherapy

I had surgery to remove the largest lump then I had chemo and radiotherapy. The side effects were so bad. I ended up in A&E a few times.

Throughout that time Claire was a friendly face and she helped me to keep going.

It’s taken a lot longer for me to meet people who are Black and Asian who have had cancer. When I was going through treatment, I was surrounded by lots of elderly white people and even at the events I didn’t see any young people who looked like me.

There is a taboo in the Black and Minority Ethnic community around cancer, and you are expected to deal with it in private, rather than reaching out to get support. I wanted to share my experience to encourage other Black and Minority Ethic young people to seek support from Teenage Cancer Trust, as the help I have had has been amazing. Everyone has differences, but to be within the BAME category, we just have a different battle to fight. 

I’m a Christian and I had some other Christians tell me that I shouldn’t have chemotherapy, I should just trust in God and pray to get better. There were a lot of opinions and myths around cancer pushed onto me. At one point I was even advised not go through chemotherapy because ‘it’s poison and will kill you’. Pretty daunting words to hear before your first round of chemo, already feeling overwhelmed and unsure for the future I had to do what was best for me.

In the Bible it says ‘with everything choose wisdom’ so I was happy with my decision to continue to go to church and pray, but also to seek medical help. After all, I was the main person affected by my decisions.

When I heard that I was in remission I was so happy. I felt like I could breathe again. But I cried when I thought about the trauma I had been through. Treatment was an emotional rollercoaster but life after cancer is harder than you expect.


I am having to rebuild who I am and readjust to ‘normal’ life. Luckily the support from Claire didn’t stop just because my treatment stopped.

Having a cancer diagnosis has been the most beautiful tragedy to have ever happened to me and, although it wasn’t an easy journey, it’s been a huge blessing in disguise. I have become unapologetically myself.