My name is Freya, I am 20 years old and I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma aged 18.
Before I was diagnosed I was like any other 18 year old, studying hard at college for my A-Levels and working part time as a lifeguard. I was physically fit, always swimming, running, playing netball and going out with my mates! Exams, boys, mates and college are the typical worries of a teenage girl, and it was the same with me, feeling drained, stressed and tired are normal at that time of year, right?
Not being able to make it to 5 o’clock without feeling exhausted or being able to turn my neck without it hurting definitely wasn’t normal. Visiting my GP was the only answer when chest pains started one night and my neck was the size of a rugby player’s.
I was definitely one of the lucky ones. I went to my doctor and she referred me to a ward in my local hospital where I spent the next five days being poked and prodded, surrounded by elderly patients and still not knowing what was wrong with me. After scans and a biopsy I was moved to the oncology ward and was told I could go home for the weekend, but if there was any change to come back in. The next day I collapsed in the kitchen so back to hospital I went! After a thorough check I was allowed to go home again and within the next few days I had the results – I felt like I already knew I had cancer, it was the only explanation for what was going on, but it was crazy, I was a fit, young girl with everything to live for.
The next week or so was a bit of a blur and telling my mates was the hardest thing. Actually saying ‘I’ve got cancer’ out loud made it so real. I was referred to the Royal Marsden Hospital where I was put on the Teenage Cancer Trust unit, which was incredible- I was playing pool hooked up to my drip, playing on an Xbox in bed and I made friends at a quiz we had one evening. I even got to meet Chris Robshaw, the England rugby captain when he came to visit. As much as this place was amazing I still had to have my first chemo after yet another bone marrow biopsy – without anaesthetic! I had no idea what to expect. I can’t even describe the feeling I had after chemo it’s a nausea I’ve never experienced before, but I knew this was what was going to save my life.
For the six months I was on chemo I was still at Sixth Form College and I sat my A Level exams and got accepted into university. At college we had fundraising days and the teachers ran 10k to raise money for charities- the support was incredible. I even took some assemblies to raise awareness for teenage cancer and share my story.
The fund raising didn’t stop there, as a family we raised over £5000 putting on a sponsored walk around our village which was amazing! Since my diagnosis my school, family and friends have raised over £14,000 for cancer charities.
So on the 6th of August 2012 I finished chemo and went straight on holiday to see family in Scotland, it was amazing to get away. The summer ended with a scan and then I had to wait to see if I was in remission or not. In the mean time I got something called Organsing Pneumonia and had to try and persuade my doctors to let me jump out of a plane! That was more of a challenge than the actual jump itself. I had been fundraising money for a charity skydive with some of friends, so not being able to do it would have been so disappointing. The doctors reluctantly gave me the go ahead and after my all clear on the 6th September I jumped out of a plane a few weeks later raising almost £4000 between us!
Since then I have returned to work and qualified as a swimming teacher. I went travelling for three months in Africa and Canada and after that I started university and passed my first semester with flying colours!
I have also had help from many charities including Teens Unite Fighting Cancer, where the team have sent me on days out like Mother’s Day afternoon tea. Meeting and making friends that have had cancer just like me is so important because it allowed me to have conversations I can’t have with my normal friends and I’ve been able to share experiences and I now know that I’m not alone. It has also allowed my mum to meet other mums going through the same, which has helped her too and for this I thank Teens Unite Fighting Cancer! I took part in the Santa Fun Run 10km race in December, which was my first ten 10km run since before my diagnosis and raised money for Teens Unite.
I have definitely changed as a person since having cancer, I’ve got stronger as a person and I have realised I have the best family and friends I could ever ask for, for this I am so lucky! With determination, amazing support, and a smile you can get through anything.