My name is Emma Gibbons, I am 20 years old and live in Essex with my Mum and two sisters.
At 18 years old I decided to take a gap year in between school and university. In this time away from education I worked as an intern at various places in London. I had never worked up in London and I was becoming quite tired by the end of each week. In the November I started to get colds which developed into viruses which developed into an aching body, which got so bad that I could barely walk. That month I was in and out of the GP practice and hospital various times but nothing got resolved. By Christmas I was fine, back to my normal self in fact.
Then in March, as soon as I got back from a holiday with my family, the symptoms returned. This time they had multiplied and were restricting my everyday life – I could barely walk, I was sick all the time and had no appetite. Again, I was back and forth from the doctors and was in hospital for scans and visits to A and E – finally my Mum decided to get me a private scan where they saw an abnormality and said I should get it checked out. One biopsy later and on the 8th May 2013 I heard those three daunting words that no 18 year old expects to hear; ‘you have cancer’.
Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma to be exact – a specific type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of blood cancer.
The next few weeks were a bit of a blur and it didn’t really feel like it was happening to me. I was a happy, healthy, regular 18 year old that had never had anything worse than a sore throat before. For me this was even more of an ordeal as I had to watch my Dad go through so much suffering from cancer, which led to him losing his battle just three years before my diagnosis. Cancer had always been one of my worst fears and I probably thought about it more than most teenagers, but I never actually thought it would affect me so young.
Needless to say, this part of my life was pretty low. Loosing your hair, spending the majority of your time in hospital and having to be pumped through with chemicals is not how I envisioned spending my teenage life.
However, I am a great believer in looking at the bright side. Teens Unite were a big part of this bright side – being involved with this charity has improved my life and my outlook on my illness. They organise days for teenagers who are going through the same thing to come together and try and forget about hospitals for a day or so. I have met so many inspirational people who have been through so much and still have a positive approach to life. Since I have been with the charity I have been on theatre trips, beauty days and taken part in outdoor activities. They help us teens to look at the bright side and try and enjoy the life we have as much as possible.
I am pleased to say that I am a cancer survivor – I have just passed my one year of being in remission. I am stronger, happier and healthier than possibly ever before. I have a really positive outlook on life now and Teens Unite definitely helped to do this for me. I will be forever thankful to them and the way they help us teens realise that while we have to be at hospital for our treatment, hospital is not our life.