I was 22 when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I’d just finished my degree at the University of York and I was spending a year out, prioritising having fun and experiencing new things. I was working as a nanny in Sydney, Australia and planned to stay there for 6 months before going travelling for another 6 months.
Leading up to my diagnosis I barely had any symptoms. So when I was hospitalised with breathing difficulties, I was shocked to hear that there was a mass on my chest that could be cancerous.
My parents flew out to Sydney the next day and I had to spend two weeks in hospital having tests. When I got the results, the doctor took me and my parents into a private room. It was windowless and small. He told me that I had stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I didn’t cry, I didn’t react at all. But my parents were absolutely distraught.
It was at this point that my parents and I decided that I would go back to Wales for treatment.
When I realised I had to leave Australia and cut my trip short, I cried for the first time since being hospitalised.
Starting my treatment
I flew home on December 16th. The next week I was in Singleton hospital to see the nurse and doctors about my treatment. But before I started my treatment, I had to spend a month freezing my eggs. It was quite intense, I’d go to the hospital every other day and I had to inject myself every day for three weeks.
I then started four months of chemo. It was the worst thing I’ve ever been through. Radiotherapy was really easy compared to chemo but the last week was tough. By the end of the treatment my oesophagus was starting to burn so swallowing was quite painful. I’m now struggling with the longer-term effects of treatment. I’m still so fatigued and my skin has flared up.
The thing I find the hardest is my level of fitness. I’d worked really hard on it for years and sport and exercise were my coping mechanisms when things got tough. And now I really struggle even walking my dog or walking up my stairs. I find it really frustrating and it angers me, it’s taken me below zero.
My first visit to Maggie’s
I first came to Maggie’s to see the Benefits Advisor because I was having trouble sorting out my universal credit. When we got there, I remember the volunteers being really nice and I remember Lucy, the Cancer Support Specialist, sitting down with me and being really friendly. I thought the building was really different, it is nothing like a chemo ward at all.
When I started radiotherapy, I would walk up to Maggie’s nearly every day. I chatted to Lucy a bit there and decided to have some counselling. Talking brought everything that I was holding in, out to the surface. It’s really nice to talk one on one with someone who really understands but who isn’t personally affected by your illness.
As much as you can talk to your parents and friends and family, they still went through it with you, so it’s nice talk to someone who’s outside of all that.
Young Person’s Evenings at Maggie’s
I’ve also been to a couple of young person’s networking evenings at Maggie’s. There’s pizza and you can talk with other young people going through the same thing as you. It showed me that I’m not the only one and that other people have gone through the same thing as me. It’s nice, you can just go and chill and there’s no pressure to be fun because everyone there gets it.
Lowri Morgan, the ultra-marathonist, came in to talk at one of our sessions, which was really cool. She inspired me to sign up for a triathlon two days after I get my results in September. I’ve always wanted to do a triathlon and the talk at Maggie’s really gave me the push I needed.
If I could go back to the day I was diagnosed, I would tell myself to go to Maggie’s sooner, and I’m not lying. I feel like I should have gone as soon as I got back to the UK. I would 100% recommend Maggie’s to a young person going through cancer. I would probably still be holding everything in.
I used to think Maggie’s was for older people who were already retired and didn’t have as much of a support system as I did. I had no idea that Maggie’s did so much for young people. Without Maggie's I would have been really, really lonely.