When I was 18 and only 8 weeks into my first term at University I started to become very unwell with a chesty cough, I was getting more and more breathless and my Uni bedsheets were drenched in sweat every night. I lost about 2 stone in that amount of time but every symptom I had I was putting down to being a lazy student or having ‘fresher’s flu’ so I ignored them for so long.
Eventually I was struggling to breathe just from picking something up off the floor and standing upright again so I went to my uni GP, who sent me to A&E straight away as he thought I had a collapsed lung. After several tests and scans
I found out on Christmas Eve 2010 that I had stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma with a rugby ball sized tumour crushing my left lung. At that point I was feeling so lost and alone because I had just started uni, a whole new chapter in my life for it to suddenly be taken away from me so quickly – I was a mess and didn’t know what to do!
I started my 6 month course of chemotherapy and tried to stay at uni in Brighton while having treatment but a combination of cancer symptoms, chemo side affects, lack of social life and just general ‘what’s the point?!’-ness made me decide to pack it all in and come back home to London so I could be looked after at the Royal Marsden Hospital – and that’s when I first found out about Teens Unite!
I was becoming very unhappy during my treatment as all my friends, as amazing and supportive as they were, still had their own lives to get on with and I was constantly hearing about their uni or work life and it just made me feel so isolated because as hard as they tried they wouldn’t have been able to understand how I was feeling – and having cancer at a young age means that there are hardly any people who you can relate to – or that’s what I thought…
When I received an email inviting me to a wellbeing day in London with Teens Unite I was so excited; finally I would be able to meet some other young people with cancer and have a fun day out with them – not just sitting in the hospital being depressed! I was given a hand massage and we did yoga and meditation along with eating lunch together so we could share our stories, it was a fantastic day and I met some amazing young people who I am still in contact with now.
Since that day I wanted to get involved with Teens Unite as much as possible! I went to see the X Factor Live with them in a private box at the O2, I decorated cakes with Eric Lanlard at his cafe in London, I created my own piece of artwork with ‘Art is the Cure’ (I’ve forgotten what the man’s name is!!) and I’ve also visited the Teens Unite Respite Home in Broxbourne which is just incredible, a great way to chill out with other young cancer patients in an environment that is NOTHING like a hospital!
While I was having fun with the charity and meeting great new friends, I was plodding through my chemo which came to an end – but after a PET scan the doctors found another tumour inside my lung which turned out to be Non – Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – so I pretty much had to start treatment all over again but this time to try and kill TWO different cancers. I was so so so gutted and shocked because it is such a rare thing to happen – but this time I had a zillion times more support around me to get me motivated to start chemo again and to have my autologous stem cell transplant in Feb 2012. The friends I had made from Teens Unite were there to talk to when I had questions about treatment or was just feeling low – and the lovely ladies arranged more great days out including the christmas party in Planet Hollywood and the Rays of Sunshine Concert at the Albert Hall.
It has been an absolute honour to be part of such an amazing charity – they certainly know how to turn something bad into something so good! The friends I have made through them will be with me for life and the memories are balancing out the trauma of going through treatment very nicely!
In May 2012 I found out that both of my cancers are in remission and since then I am only getting stronger! I had a party where I raised £600 for Teens Unite – they deserve every penny they can get because what they do makes such a great impact on the lives of young people with cancer, I honestly don’t know how I would have coped without them