I started chemotherapy on Christmas Eve
Maxim spent Christmas on a cancer unit, undergoing treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He tells how Teenage Cancer Trust staff were there to support him through his treatment.
I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma of the brain a week before Christmas.
My symptoms came on very quickly, starting around two months before my diagnosis. I was extremely thirsty, I started to have night sweats and, as time went by, I started to have frequent nose bleeds.
I would wake up with severe headaches every day. I wouldn’t be able to speak, move or even have a thought during these. They were excruciating and lasted for around half an hour. They slowly got worse to the point where I would vomit and couldn’t walk from the pain. They were the reason I first got medical help.
I saw my GP who booked an MRI scan for me. The scan showed that I had a lump on my brain. This led to a brain biopsy that confirmed it was cancerous. I have never felt anything so crushing in my life. It felt as though time froze and I had left reality. I couldn’t help but break down crying.
I’d never heard of Teenage Cancer Trust when I was taken to their unit at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. It wasn’t like any hospital ward I’d seen before. It was really colourful and spacious, had its own kitchen and actually lifted my mood when I arrived.
The nurses and support staff are amazing too. They have much more time to spend with you than the staff on other wards, and they’re specially trained to work with teenagers. I really felt they understood me.
If I hadn’t been treated by Teenage Cancer Trust I know I would have struggled a lot more.
On Christmas Day, I was the only patient on the unit and it was very lonely. Because of Covid, no family or friends were allowed to visit. I stayed in bed for almost the entirety of Christmas Day, as I felt unwell and I didn’t feel as though I had anything to celebrate.
The one gift I had for Christmas was from my sister. She had been able to come and see me in hospital previously, before all visits got banned. She had brought me a polaroid camera, which I could document my journey with. We took some photos together and she showed me how it worked.
So during the days before Christmas, I got a nurse to take photos of me around the ward with it. I also took photos on Christmas Day, making sure all the decorations were in so I wouldn’t ever forget the experience.
I didn’t cry on Christmas, despite crying most days. It didn’t feel like reality, it felt like a dream and I was going to wake up soon.
If I hadn’t been treated by Teenage Cancer Trust I know I would have struggled a lot more. Your environment makes such a difference to your mental wellbeing, and the unit was a special place.
Cancer has changed my appearance. I have a scar across my head as well as acne scars across my body. I found that cancer has had a significant impact on my identity. I no longer care about how I appear to others. I’ve lived with no hair long enough to forget what people think. It has also made me realise that as long as you have a good personality and are a kind person, appearance means nothing.
My experience has put into perspective how important charities like Teenage Cancer Trust are. Any donation makes such a difference when it reaches the person who needs it.