Location: Glasgow, UK
Diagnosis: Hodgkin's Lymphoma (Stage 2B)
Like a lot of young people with cancer it took me a while to get a diagnosis - five long months. This part of my life was excruciating. I KNEW something wasn't right, that I wasn't well, but no one would listen to me. After constant trips to the GP getting abnormal blood results, complaining of extreme fatigue, night sweats and swollen glands (this soon turned into a neck lump), I eventually took things into my own hands and chose to pay to visit a consultant at a private hospital to tell me what on earth was going on. It was that or wait six weeks for an NHS referral and that just seemed impossible and unbearable for me at that stage.
Ten minutes with the consultant and I learned that I might have Lymphoma. That was devastating... But also a relief. I wasn't going mad - I really was sick.
Hodgkins Lymphoma is one of the most common cancers among young adults, yet in my experience there was zero awareness of this as a real risk or explanation for my symptoms until that point.
It just wasn't on their radar. Cancer does not discriminate and there are so many young people who find themselves with a diagnosis. It shouldn't be dismissed.
As soon as I was put back into the NHS for bioposy and diagnosis my care transformed and since then it has been incredible. I am in the very best place with doctors and nurses who have a firm and achieveable plan for exactly how they are going to get me back to full health and I have complete confidence in that. But diagnosis will always be the part of my story that makes me a little angry. This part of the system seems like its broken.
I don't feel like my story is unique to be honest. Since treatment started I live for the good weeks. I try and cram life into those days and I don't beat myself up for the lazy PJ days. I try not to take my amazing family and friends for granted. They are the most important thing in my life. And I think about the future – when I'm going to go skiing next year, the next country I want to travel to, the parties I'm going to throw, the dates I'm going to go on...
I think for a lot of people cancer clarifies things; it makes them see what's really important in life – like to not be so vain or to have travelled more. For me, it's shown me how much I loved my life as it was.
I don't want all that much to change - I already had an existence that I treasure. I'm going back to living by the belief that an "oops" is always better than a "what if".
One piece of advice:
Living with cancer is all-consuming and I struggled feeling like I was missing out, but I got through it by doing the things I loved as much as I could.
During treatment I went wild swimming in one of Scotland's lochs, kayaked, took part in the Cancer Research Pretty Muddy Race for Life, went to a gig, went to a comedy show, took a weekend trip to visit a friend who lived in the north of Scotland, took a road trip with my parents for the day and threw dinner/brunch parties with my flatmate. It wasn't always like that. Plenty of times I was too weak to do anything and spent Saturday night sitting in doing a jigsaw with my parents or just sleeping nonstop, but those glimmers of normality helped me to prove to myself that life with cancer is still LIFE and made the long journey so much more bearable.
So my advice would be: don't write yourself off and don't be scared to do the things you love... Stick it to cancer every once in a while.
Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Brave Collective. While the information is considered to be true and correct at the date of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of the information.