Wednesday 12th April 2017
"I had just turned 19 and I had just come back from a family holiday when I found a lump in my neck, but I didn't think much of it...
A few months later, I went to the GP for a separate issue and so I mentioned about the lumps in my neck – I thought I just maybe had a cold or was ill. My doctor said the lumps were strange, especially after I mentioned that they had grown a bit bigger.
He had me go in for an ultrasound scan and a blood test; I had the blood test first and the results came back showing there was nothing wrong.
But my mum had been through cancer before, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, so she was still worried about the lumps in my neck and started Googling my symptoms herself – she ended up diagnosing me before the doctors did.
A few days later I went to have my ultrasound. When it was time to get my results, my mum said right away to the doctor that she wanted a straight up answer, no crap. The doctor then told us that he thought I might have Hodgkin Lymphoma. Right then we already knew I had cancer.
My dad works in Azerbaijan and he flew back immediately to go to the scan with me. He was due to leave a couple of weeks later but he got an extension from his work because of the results.
I had a biopsy with a needle and a camera up and down my throat. I then went to Lincoln hospital to discuss my treatment process with a nurse, and that was where I first found out about Teenage Cancer Trust.
Lincoln doesn't have a Teenage Cancer Trust unit or specialist care for young people.
My mum was treated for her cancer in Lincoln and she said the majority of people there were over 60-years old; she thought it wouldn’t be a healthy environment for me to have my treatment in.
But obviously it was ultimately my decision whether I wanted to stay closer to home or if I wanted to travel to the Teenage Cancer Trust unit at Nottingham City Hospital.
I really liked the idea of going to Nottingham Hospital, even though it was an hour’s drive away and I knew there would be a lot of days I would be feeling sick in the long car ride back home. But I just knew I wanted the experience of meeting other young people like me. I really didn’t feel alienated and in Lincoln, I might never have met another young person with cancer.
So the consultant in Lincoln put me in touch with one of the Teenage Cancer Trust Nurses, in Nottingham. She talked through all the options about the Teenage Cancer Trust unit, I even visited the unit before I started my chemo, just to see what it was like. I started talking to different people who were in treatment and they just told me how amazing Teenage Cancer Trust was and I think it made the whole process just easier to deal with. I decided that it was definitely where I wanted to go through my treatment.
When I was in treatment, the Teenage Cancer Trust Nurses were always there to answer my questions, asking me if I had any worries.
Going through treatment was in a lot of respects an easy ride for me – and I know that this is all because I chose to be on the Teenage Cancer Trust Unit. I know myself and if I was in an environment of a clinical hospital, like Lincoln, it would have been really difficult for me.
A lot of people don't think of the results that treatment has on you afterwards – when you’re meant to go back to normal everyday life. You put up an emotional barrier when you go through treatment – I was just practical, I just wanted to get my treatment done. After that it was very difficult for me to get back to my day-to-day life.
Teenage Cancer Trust asked me if I wanted to go to Find Your Sense of Tumour 2016. I had heard about it before and really wanted to go.
I had already started at Aston University in Birmingham at the time and so Teenage Cancer Trust really helped me – obviously I didn't want to travel to Nottingham, where I was treated, to then travel to the conference. So they allowed me to go with the Birmingham lot – I met lots of people who were from the area where I go to university.
We travelled altogether and I made some really good friends. Find Your Sense of Tumour was a really eye opening experience for me – it really made me not worry about little things and just live life to its full potential.
Matt King really stood out for me at Find Your Sense of Tumour. He really made me think about what is important in life. He was really inspirational – I think I had about five damp tissues by the end of it because I was crying so much!
I met so many inspirational people at Find Your Sense of Tumour – it just made me feel a lot more normal, compared to being in a university environment where everyone else is healthy and has always been healthy.
It was really good to talk about my experiences with other people as well. It was amazing to have common ground with people and so easy to build friendships from having those similar experiences.
My dad and boyfriend ran the Great North Run with Team Teenage Cancer last year for me. This year, I've decided to join them!
We will all be running the Great North Run 2017 with Team Teenage Cancer and raising money for other young people across the country.
Jessica's boyfriend, Will, said:
"Jess' battle with cancer was an unwelcome emotional rollercoaster, but one that she overcame so bravely with the tremendous support and care from the NHS, Teenage Cancer Trust, family and friends. When something like that happens to someone in your life you change; you have to adapt in order to push through. I focused on being realistic and positive, I stopped worrying about insignificant things and began to live for the moment.
Having no previous running experience, I ran my first half marathon last year along with other members of Jess' support group who all played their part in challenging themselves and sharing with Jess' burden.
After receiving the news that the person I love most was given the all clear we were given time to breathe, decompress and reflect on what had been a hugely difficult journey. Jess' father suggested we ran the Great North Run again this year for Teenage Cancer Trust.
I am more than willing to challenge myself again to raise money for a wonderful organisation that I owe eternal gratitude for their part in helping Jess to overcome her battle.