Monday 8th August 2016

Wales

"My name is Hannah, I'm 21, and I recently finished my treatment for leukaemia after almost 9 months of chemotherapy.

Before my diagnosis, I was feeling extremely tired all the time which I put down to my job. As a producer of a breakfast radio show, I was always up at 4.30am so it made sense.

But, a few weeks before my diagnosis I discovered bruises all over my legs. They came from nowhere and I remember one night, within the space of 3 or 4 hours, 2 huge bruises appeared from nowhere. My boyfriend, Lewis, took me to A&E but they didn't think anything was wrong. 

I went to see my GP a few days later and I insisted on an urgent appointment. He sent me for some blood tests and by the evening I was told that I needed to go to the hospital due to something showing in my blood. I was told that I needed to go to the Teenage Cancer Trust Unit, which was a massive shock. Nobody had said the word 'cancer' to me but I was told  that this was where I needed to go for my age group.

I was sat on a bed on the Teenage Cancer Trust unit with my Mum and Dad when I was told it could possibly be cancer.

The Doctor used the word 'blood abnormality' but I didn't understand what she meant until she finally said that it could be Leukaemia. I didn't cry at first because I think I was just in shock. The following day, Lewis, my mum, my dad and I sat on the unit and it was validated by my doctor that it was actually cancer. I was admitted as an inpatient to the unit straight away and within 2 days, I started chemotherapy. Everything happened quite quickly which I was really pleased about, even though it was intense.

Unfortunately, my treatment wasn't always straight forward. Over the last 9 months, I have spent time in intensive care, on an adult ward, a high dependency ward and on a cardiology unit.

Even though the other wards in the hospital were lovely, nothing compared to the care and support on the Teenage Cancer Trust Unit, so when I returned it felt a bit like coming home.

I was due to finish treatment in May but I experienced a fluid build up on my heart, which meant that I had to have 2 urgent operations. The complications from chemotherapy meant that I had to be put on a different course which made my treatment plan longer.

The side effects at times were awful. I think one of the worst periods of treatment was when I lost my appetite, which I found really hard as I love my food! I had terrible ulcers, a swollen mouth and eating was just too painful. It was even worse than when I lost my hair. My family and the staff tried everything they could to encourage me to eat but it was too difficult.

Other than the medical care I received from the nurses and doctors, I received a different kind of care from the Youth Support Coordinator, Anna...

I met Anna when she introduced herself to me on my first day. I immediately liked Anna as she was very bubbly, a positive person and made a bad situation bearable, which is a lot like my own personality.

Anna has done a lot since I've been here, from bringing me magazines and chocolate, helping me choose my wig, and organising a monthly radio show on the hospitals radio station, Radio Glamorgan. Along with the nurses, she brought a sense of normality to hospital life.

Now that I've progressed in my treatment and am feeling better, I am able to take part in social gatherings that Anna organises for the patients. It's important to me to take part because it gives me the opportunity to meet people of a similar age with similar stories in a fun environment.

I am very grateful for Anna, the nurses and the rest of the staff on the Unit for being there throughout this whole experience. They've been amazing in providing support and friendship, both during and after treatment.

They go above and beyond to make sure we are happy and they've always been positive through everything I've faced.

Since the Unit has been refurbished, it offers more seating for inpatients, outpatients and families on busy days and it looks more inviting than before.

The Social Zone has been opened up and the room and looks much brighter and more cheerful. Being able to have a space like this where we can be together has made such a difference over the last 9 months.

When you're not feeling great and you're having lots of chemotherapy or fluids, it's lovely to have somewhere comfortable and homely to relax.

When my treatment ended last week it was a bitter sweet feeling because although this has been the most difficult time of mine, and my family's life.

I feel like I've become part of a family on the Teenage Cancer Trust unit and I will be sad to not be seeing everyone, everyday.

I'm hoping now, to return to a job in radio or media and put my degree to good use. I've been keeping myself busy by doing a radio show with Anna on the hospital radio station, Radio Glamorgan, and hope to continue that alongside a career.

I like to travel, so I'm hoping to get away on holiday with my boyfriend later this year and a big family holiday next year before we start saving for a house deposit as my diagnosis put our plans on hold."
 

Donating £25 could fund an hour of care from a Youth Support Coordinator like Anna