In 2009 I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. This cancer was known as “female teratoma,” and it meant that I basically had testicular cancer in the ovary. I got the cancer from my dad. It skipped a generation and was passed down to me from my grandmother, who passed away in 1989, two months after I was born.
My illness was so rare that it took doctors five years to link my symptoms to cancer. I was 13 years old when I started to feel unwell. I’d visit my general practitioner on a weekly basis, but they just told me it was “teenage hormones.” I would then be issued pain killers to help control the suffering that I was enduring. I would need these pain killers so often that it became easier to just buy them over the counter with my lunch money rather than visiting the general practitioner. At this time, my cancer was growing and becoming very aggressive.
By this time, the cancer had got so big that my mum was convinced I was pregnant – that’s how huge my ovary had grown.
My experience with having cancer is that there’s a darkness that those who aren’t going thought the ordeal feel, and at some point in treatment or outside treatment us cancer patients feel a darkness, too. It took me a long while to come to terms with my illness; I don’t think I’ve truly even realized the implication of having cancer and how it’s affected, my life good or bad.
I’m not sure exactly how to express my thoughts when it comes to the after-effect of having cancer. However, I know having cancer is difficult: going to the hospital not knowing if I was going to beat this disease and how it would affect me after left me with questions – would I remain the same person? Would my spirit be broken?
Before being diagnosed with cancer, I wasn’t much of a writer. My writing was limited to just the average coursework and emails. But after going through the ordeal, I had to find a way of expressing my thoughts and feelings. That’s when I started finding comfort in writing.
I kept a journal – that way my thoughts didn’t start driving me crazy. Writing was my escape and at one point the only friend I had. It’s strange – growing up, my mum would say, “Your friends aren’t your friends until you really need them and they are still there.” I obviously didn’t get it then. I should have listened, because when I had cancer it was like my friends didn’t exist in my life anymore. They became more like strangers in the street – they disappeared and I even had friends wondering if cancer was catching. Even though I was a little uneducated on the topic, I knew cancer wasn’t contagious.
I’m still under the watchful eyes of the doctors, and I try to get involved with the different cancer trust groups available for teens and young adults. The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, Teenage Cancer Trust and Teens Unite are some that I am involved with.
Cancer still has an impact on my life. I don’t think I’ll ever be the person I was before cancer, nor would I want to be: having cancer highlighted a strength within me that I didn’t know existed and it allows me to meet some of the most inspirational people out there.