Tuesday 7th June 2016
Yorkshire and the Humber
"I was 14 years old when I met my first boyfriend Sam. We met through school friends but soon became very close and were happily dating until 2 years into our relationship when we were hit with some devastating news.
At the age of 18, Sam began to feel tired all the time...
He had always been so driven and energetic but all of a sudden he was just too tired to do anything. He started university to study Classics but then quit, which myself and his family found really strange, it was so out of character.
Sam was a really active, outgoing and happy young man. He played for bands and loved his music but he began to struggle with the tiredness and keeping up with everyday life. He then started to cough up food and found it hard to swallow. Initially the doctors suspected it was heart burn but his symptoms did not improve so he went to a different doctor for a check-up. After seeing this doctor, everything happened really fast and Sam was sent for tests immediately. I remember it being a Friday in March 2010, and him calling me to tell me he had the results and it was oesophagus cancer.
I couldn't believe it. He was only 18 and I was 16, we thought cancer was for older people.
Sadly, the devastating news didn't stop there. The following Wednesday, just 5 days after discovering Sam had cancer, he was told he was terminal. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It was a complete shock for us all but Sam was really strong and never questioned it or why him, he just accepted that this was the way things were.
His strength never ceased to amaze me. He gathered all his friends together at his house and told them he was terminal.
Despite being so young, he took on the news and his diagnosis so bravely. He returned to university whilst undergoing treatment.
Sam was admitted to the Teenage Cancer Trust unit at Leeds General Infirmary to start chemotherapy. I was absolutely terrified to go and see him on the unit as I had heard he was on a young person's ward and I was scared of what I may see. I imagined it to be a depressing place but I couldn't have been more wrong. The unit was bright and colourful and had things like a juke box and pool table. It didn't feel like a hospital and I know the unit, the staff and the facilities made a huge difference to Sam's time.
After some time on chemotherapy, there was no improvement in Sam's cancer. He was offered radiotherapy but he decided to stop treatment then. It was a really tough time for Sam, his family and myself but his strength helped us all.
On the 26 March 2011, Sam passed away at home surrounded by his family.
Soon after he died, I looked for ways I could raise money in his memory...
I signed up to run the London Marathon for Teenage Cancer Trust and surprised myself how much I came to love running. Sam wouldn't have believed that I could run a mile, never mind 26! In a way, having the Marathon as a focus helped me grieve and cope with the year after Sam's death. I felt so empty when he died, but the Marathon gave me something to aim at and by raising funds I felt like I was doing something for Sam.
5 years on and I am still raising funds for Teenage Cancer Trust. In just 2 weeks' time, I will be taking on one of my biggest challenges to date. On 12 June, I will be taking on the Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire for Teenage Cancer Trust. I will be swimming 1.2 miles, cycling 56 miles and a 13.1 mile run.
I'm so nervous but also excited to be a part of such a huge challenge. I want to push myself further than ever and raise funds for Teenage Cancer Trust because Sam was so dedicated to the charity. He wouldn't believe this new side of my life but I know he would be really proud and supportive of me. I want to continue raising money for the charity that supported Sam through his cancer, just like he wanted to do."
Emma is part of our incredible Ironman group, Team Lucy, lead by cancer doctor and 5-times Ironman champion Lucy Gossage.