Sian was a friend when I felt like I had no one
Mariam was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma when she was 18. During her treatment over Christmas, she was helped by her Teenage Cancer Trust Nurse Claire and her Youth Support Coordinator Sian.
When lockdown started in March 2020, I discovered a lump on the left side of my neck. It got to June, and the lump got bigger, and I started to get concerned. My GP said that it was tonsillitis and gave me antibiotics, but the lumps kept getting bigger. I started to cough non-stop and felt like I had a brick on my chest.
I got an appointment for an ultrasound. The radiographer scanned my neck and I saw this big lump; it looked huge on the screen. There was definitely something wrong. He was only meant to be doing my left side, but he went to the right side, and it was the same thing there – another lump.
He said my lymph nodes shouldn’t be that big and it could be lymphoma. I started crying. I had just started the biggest chapter of my life with university where I would move out and make new friends and now that was over. I wondered for the first time whether I was going to die.
I started chemo in December 2020 and had to shield. Everyone had face masks on, and I didn’t know what my nurses looked like. My Teenage Cancer Trust Youth Support Coordinator Sian helped me so much and has been a massive part of my journey. I talked to her like a friend as I could just gossip with her about anything.
My mum and brother tested positive for Covid on Christmas Day, so my family all had to have dinner in separate rooms to minimise the risk. I’d been having all my meals alone in hospital and was looking forward to a big family meal. I was so fed up.
I got Covid two or three days later. I was coughing and got really poorly. I was really worried as it was the thing that we were all trying to avoid, and it was the worst thing that could have happened. I thought: ‘I’m definitely going to die now’.
She was a shoulder to cry on and she listened to me when I needed someone to talk to.
During chemotherapy, I was in isolation at the hospital and couldn’t see my family. I had to be in a small room by myself as I was testing positive. I just wanted to go home. I didn’t even realise how much I’d appreciate my extended family and I was begging to see them.
My immune system took such a battering. I got sepsis three times. Sian was there for me and even came to visit me in the emergency unit. She was a shoulder to cry on and she listened to me when I needed someone to talk to.
When I finished treatment, I said thank you to Sian as she was a friend in a time that I didn’t feel like I had anyone. She cried as she’d seen me so poorly and she’d been on the journey with me. I didn’t think I would make it out the other side, so getting there was a big moment.
I felt really overwhelmed when my treatment finished. I’d been in survivor mode during cancer, and I felt really lost afterwards. Everything had happened so quickly, and I don’t think I ever processed it. My identity has completely changed as I looked different. I went from having long hair to short hair, from losing a lot of weight during treatment and then putting it back on, and from having spotty skin during treatment.
I also found it hard to adjust back to normality, including and seeing friends and going back to work. I didn’t know where to start picking up the pieces and I thought it would be like that forever.
I saw Sian every other day during my treatment, and I was worried that her support would stop afterwards. She reassured me that she was still there for me, and I had her support to fall back on. I was nervous about going back to work, but she helped me realise that getting back to some routine would help me. I’m now glad to be back at work and I’m ready to go back to university to pick up from where I left off.