When I was 14 I was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer that initially affects the muscles and then it had spread to my lung by the time we caught it. I had to go through a year of chemotherapy and then also radiotherapy as well.
It's difficult to describe the shock. When you're first told it's very, very, very hard not to think... ‘I'm going to die, it's a death sentence’ and I have to be honest, that is the first reaction I had. I can remember driving back, it was a really, really bright sunny day and I saw these two men laughing and I felt like my world had just been ripped apart and I thought ‘how is anyone laughing, how is there anything funny in the world at all?’ But then I took the dog for a walk and thought ‘I can panic or I can pick myself up and fight’. There isn't a choice, you can't not fight. One thing I never asked was ‘what's my prognosis?’
I wouldn't have been able to cope so well had I not been able to go into school and try and carry on a normal life as a teenager. A member of the Teenage Cancer Trust education team came to my school and he gave a talk to my year group about what the charity does and what it's like to be a teenager with cancer. Something he did really, really well - and it's something I didn't think you could ever do with the topic of cancer - was by sharing experiences and anecdotes he introduced an aspect of humour.
He made it seem like something that could be dealt with and made it less scary and gave my friends and my teachers the ability to then be able to talk about it to me.
Teenage Cancer Trust opens up the conversation and by doing so it smashes through that isolation that teenagers initially feel. They gave me a lifeline to cope with what was going on.
I initially thought ‘it's going to change everything, I won't worry about anything else in my life ever again because nothing can be as bad as having a cancer diagnosis’. It has changed my life in the sense that I go for things. When I got my job as a teacher, when I passed my driving test, every single milestone that at 14 I wondered about ever reaching and then you reach them. It's so difficult to explain that kind of euphoria when there was a time where I wasn't sure whether this was going to be possible. I would be lying if I said I didn't worry about things, I worry about stupid things in the same way that any other normal person does, but I think it has given me this appreciation for life that every kind of milestone in life is a gift.