Going back to college after cancer

Here you’ll find a full transcription of our audio episode with Hiral, about going back to college after cancer treatment. This project is in collaboration with Blood Cancer UK.

Hiral: Just be your own advocate, you know what all your symptoms are like, you know how it feels, no one can speak for you because they’re not going through what you’re going through.

Voiceover: That was Hiral, with some great advice about standing up for the help you need after a cancer diagnosis.

If you’re diagnosed with cancer at a young age, it can feel hard to get your life back on track. Blood Cancer UK and Teenage Cancer Trust have caught up with Hiral, who is getting back into education despite cancer, and coronavirus.

First, Hiral talks about starting college as she comes to the end of her leukaemia treatment.

[car door shuts, engine starts]

Hiral: Hello, good morning, everyone. My name is Hiral, I’m 23 years old and this morning I’m going to be taking you along with me to college…

Voiceover: Hiral had definite plans for her future - until a life-changing diagnosis got in the way…

[music]

Hiral: At the time when I was getting diagnosed, I was working at a nursery as a room leader.

And one day I just came into work and I just remember having the worst migraine ever.

And it wasn’t until one of my colleagues just pointed out, um, ‘Hiral, why do you have like rashes on your skin?’ And I was like, ‘what?!’

The 8th July, that’s when the doctor came in and she was like, ‘We’ve got your results…and it’s come back that you have leukaemia.’

I remember I’d been offered a place to study childhood studies at that time, and that’s what I wanted to do.

And then yeah, this just came out of nowhere, you know.

[music ends]

Voiceover: So Hiral put her study plans on hold, but in the course of her treatment, those plans changed. She’s due to finish treatment in a few weeks’ time and has already started on the path to a new career.

Hiral: So this year I’ve applied to do a course in nursing. It’s an access course, and I only have to go two days a week, which helps with my situation.

[traffic noise]

So, it’s 7.35 right now, and it takes about 40 minutes to get there.

Cos I’ve got the blue badge here, it really helps me to get around places and be able to park in the college’s car park and it just makes one less of a hassle to get there and you know not having to panic about where I’m going to park and things like that.

[traffic noise ends]

Voiceover: Having a parking space at college means Hiral can cope better with fatigue and anxiety, and it helps her avoid any infections she might come into contact with if she took public transport. And that, of course, includes coronavirus – which Hiral was afraid might affect her treatment.

Hiral: There was a lot of rumours flying about with cancer patients and coronavirus. Obviously we started getting letters to start shielding, you know, be extra careful, but obviously for us nothing changed because that’s how we have to be anyways, you know.

[music]

I thought my treatment was probably gonna get cancelled or delayed.

The main source to ask was my medical team.

And they were like, ‘No, we’re planning to carry on just as we are. Nothing is changing.’

[traffic noise]

So here I’m just putting up my blue badge to indicate obviously for disabled user obviously.

So I just have to set the time on the disk.

I’m pretty sure I packed my mask….yeah I did!

[music and traffic noise ends]

Voiceover: In law, cancer counts as a disability. If you’ve got cancer, you might not think of it that way, but it does mean schools, colleges and universities have to help you access your studies on an equal footing to everyone else, whatever difficulties you might be facing. And that applies whether you’re being treated for cancer, or you’re in remission. Colleges and universities should have a disability service, so do contact them to talk about the help you might need.

Back to Hiral…

Hiral: That’s the thing with disability, sometimes with cancer, cancer is known as a disability but it’s not physical all the time so…you’d kinda then start thinking like yeah you start feeling a bit guilty as well like, ‘oh maybe there’s other students that need it more than you’ and I did feel like that at the beginning…

The advice I would probably give is just be your own advocate, you know what all your symptoms are like, you know how it feels, no one can speak for you because they’re not going through what you’re going through. If you need the help, you need the help.

[music]

Voiceover: This is a collaboration between Blood Cancer UK and Teenage Cancer Trust. Thanks to Hiral for taking the time to share her story with us. The experiences shared were within coronavirus guidelines at the time of recording. For more information and support, contact Blood Cancer UK or Teenage Cancer Trust.

[music ends]