What cancer were you diagnosed with? Hogdkin lymphoma
At what age were you diagnosed? 23
What has helped you to thrive? Awesome people. Regardless of how terrible a situation is, facing it with support by your side makes it that much easier and I think it's the human spirit that gets us through our toughest times. When supporting someone who’s ill, a big thing to remember is the person who's ill hasn't changed; they're still the same person cancer or no cancer. People worry about saying the wrong thing and sometimes this means they say nothing. This is the worst thing as illness is isolating enough and often the biggest issues are losing the feeling of normality.
Another big factor, after getting frustrated by the gaps in practical health advice, I made it my mission to find things out. I wanted to know how we could help ourselves and others recover from the disease. Were there any exercises, lifestyle changes or tricks to combat side effects? There are plenty of case studies out there proving the effectiveness of diet and lifestyle changes to benefit or at least make you feel better during your treatment and into recovery. So I thrived by consuming all this information and less cheesy chips!
With dreams to become Louis Theroux's sidekick and work in documentary, I had come back from making my first short doc in Colombia when a lump appeared on my neck. Naturally, I nicknamed it and carried on as it carried on growing. I was getting night sweats and constantly knackered but doubled up on energy drinks and thought it was a long hangover. When I went to the doctors they thought it was a mix of things, then settled on tuberculosis due to the South American trip. Blood cancers can be hard to diagnose, but after several weeks of persistence and a 99% claim from a doctor it wasn't cancer the 1% became my reality, with the lump then the size of a large lemon. The next day after hearing the lymphoma news I was having my bone marrow out and told I needed immediate chemo for 6 months. I soon decided how important it would be for my sanity to take an active role in my recovery focusing largely on exercise and eating well. With primary care focusing on treatment of diseases and little emphasis on prevention or actual recovery after treatment I wanted to learn all I could to help myself and others in a similar situation.
So my bed-bound months were spent battling research about cancer vs. Netflix.
There are a lot of opinions out there and it's important to remember that different things work for different people but there are definitely things we can do to improve our overall health and energy levels. Bouncing back physically after treatment was steady but mentally things take a little longer. I wish cancer didn't pop into my mind every day but at the moment it does and I've got things I want to talk about. So I've started sharing everything I know on a video blog and would love to link up with others for this project. The aim is to try and do one a week for the next year, '52 Ways to Challenge Cancer'. These are all things I've done and felt better from including exercises, food, relaxation and activities. I think a big thing I take from this is my fresh appreciation all the good things in life and also a respect for my body after the reminder it actually exists. Often we can get so caught up running around in our heads but everything’s connected.
The first time I walked onto the cancer ward I was terrified. Everyone had no hair and looked very ill, it was all very surreal. I didn’t want to join, but soon the place you fear becomes your normality and comfort zone and leaving was equally terrifying as the unknown and what if’s kick in. Maybe finishing was the hardest part and that's where the importance of Trekstock comes in.
When I was diagnosed everything felt very out of control and it was a big knock to the confidence I had in my health, having always loved exercise and travelling. You suddenly have your independence taken away. Trekstock are unique in focusing on an age range that tends to get overlooked but are still very vulnerable. I feel very fortunate to be treated on a Teenage Cancer ward which was a wonderful unit, but for those over 24 at the time of diagnosis there isn’t solid support. Often people aren’t meeting others in similar situations to share experiences and this is what’s special about the welcoming feel to Trekstock. There’s a lovely inclusive vibe and they’re also addressing necessary topics.
My real mission now is to help others who get a diagnosis, and so I’m very happy to be starting work with a super charity that supports young women during their treatment. It’s an exciting time for the charity and I’m looking forward to a fresh year.