In September 2015 I was 20 years old, and working as an insurance account handler in Suffolk. I’d decided to take the leap and move to London, and was about to start a new job in the city.
I had found a lump on my neck a month before, and gone to my GP to have it looked at. She told me to come back in a month if it hadn’t gone. One month on, it had got bigger, so I went back to the doctors and she sent me for a biopsy. Less than a week before I was due to start my new job in London, I received a message telling me that my results were back and I needed to come in to get them. Little did I know that before I even got to that appointment, I would find out the severity of what was happening.
I received a text message to tell me that I had a second appointment booked at the hospital following the appointment with my results. I rang the hospital booking team to find out if there had been a mix-up, I was sure that the lump wasn’t anything serious enough to require hospital treatment. The woman on the phone got my hospital records up, and told me that I had my results appointment, and to follow it I had an appointment in the oncology department. I couldn’t believe it. I was paralysed at first, and as it dawned on her what she had accidently revealed, I had burst into tears.
I rang my mum and told her what I had been told. We were in complete disbelief, trying to make sense of it all; we thought maybe I needed to go to the oncology department for them to remove the lump.
Initially we hadn’t planned for my mum to come with me to the hospital, but knowing what we knew, we decided it was best that she did. At the results appointment, our worst fears were confirmed: I had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and I needed to start chemo. We drove home, unable to speak. When we told my dad, he was in denial.
I wanted to start my treatment straight away after my diagnosis, but the doctors told me to wait a week or so, to give me a chance to get my head around the situation. Instead of embarking on my new adventure in London, I was back in Suffolk, about to start chemotherapy. People say that a cancer diagnosis ‘puts your life on hold’, I felt that immensely.
They had diagnosed me with stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and told me I would need 6 months of treatment, where I would receive a cycle of chemo a month over 2 sittings. This meant I would spend a day each fortnight at Addenbrookes as a day patient.
I hated the side effects from the treatment, and I wasn’t able to work because I felt too ill. There seemed to be so many symptoms I hadn’t expected. My taste buds changed completely, if you imagine how things taste when you have a cold or flu, and take that to the extreme – even water tasted disgusting. Eventually I learned how to deal with it, thanks mostly to having such amazing support from my family and friends.
If it hadn’t been for being based on a Teenage Cancer Trust unit, my experience would have been so much worse.
To be around people your own age was a relief – even if you didn’t interact with others all the time, it was a comfort. I had to have my PICC line cleaned every other week, and for this I needed to go to my local hospital. I was always the youngest one there by forty or so years, and I felt so uncomfortable. I couldn’t imagine having my treatment there.
My Youth Support Coordinator Amy was absolutely amazing. I don’t know what I would’ve done without her and the Teenage Cancer Trust nurses. I also attended the Royal Albert Hall Ultimate Backstage Experience, where I got to see The Who. The moment where we went on stage was amazing, a once in a lifetime opportunity I won't forget.
After 2 months of treatment I was told the incredible news that my body had taken to the chemo so well that the tumour had gone. I still underwent the next 4 months of treatment, to be safe, although I started to feel agitated and frustrated with the side effects. Eventually it was finished, and in February 2016 I went into remission!
Being diagnosed with cancer had put my life on hold, but whilst I was going through treatment I’d had a change of heart about what I wanted to do. Previously, I had written off the idea of going to university, but I found my dream course – Fashion History and Theory at Central St. Martins. I decided to apply, and to my amazement, got offered a place! In September 2016, 6 months into remission, I moved to London and started university.
I started running to lose the weight I’d gained after my treatment, I’m now up to getting to 14 miles without stopping, and my training is going well! I wanted to give something back to the charity that had done so much for me, and so I decided to take on the Virgin Money London Marathon, with the aim of raising £3,000 for Teenage Cancer Trust.
Over the summer I was walking to work when I passed the Royal Parks Half Marathon taking place. I watched as people ran past, and started to notice people running in Teenage Cancer Trust vests. Seeing these people, knowing that they were so dedicated to raising money for the cause that had helped me so much, actually brought tears to my eyes. The supporters and fundraisers around the country are the people keeping these life-changing services going, and I'm so excited to be part of that. I think it's safe to say it's going to be a very emotional day!