Ollie on coming to terms with cancer as a young man

Thursday 01 June 2023

Maggie's Swansea

When I was diagnosed, I was just 16. I did two months of high-intensity chemotherapy, one of the highest rates they had ever given someone on the ward. But it wasn’t until after I finished treatment that things started to go downhill.

When you get off treatment, there's not this plan which slowly prepares you for life. For nine months, I had a routine of tablets, tablets, tablets, chemotherapy, chemotherapy, tablets, tablets, tablets.

Coming off that, I lost my head a bit. All my mates had moved on, gone to university or got jobs. I had missed out on two years of my mates’ lives, and two years of my life.

Counselling sounded awful, like the last thing I wanted. But then I met Lucy, the Cancer Support Specialist at Maggie’s Swansea, and it completely changed my idea of what counselling could be. It's amazing, looking back now, to think how much she's changed my outlook on things.

Peer support

Lucy introduced me to Amelia, who was my age, with the exact same cancer as me, same scar, same experiences. She was two weeks ahead of everything I'd done. It was so good bouncing things off her, and approaching subjects together. Our relationship helped me to recover.

It's such a strange conversation when you're 16 and someone says there's a possibility you won't be able to have children in the future.

What am I supposed to do then? And, even if I do have a family, how am I going to provide for them if I can't work later in life? These are questions that are way too big to ask for a 17-year-old, but they just get dumped on your lap.

Most people can think about the future in their own time. But with cancer, everything was just sped up to a point of total confusion.

Cancer support 

It was a lot of talking with Lucy that made me get my head around these things. It was good just to talk and being able to just sit down and listen to her answers. It’s hard to know exactly what you're supposed to be feeling when you go through it.

But with Lucy, it was like someone had given you a key to your brain that you weren’t allowed. I ended up processing a lot more stuff than I thought I could.

I opened up about it to my girlfriend at the time, who had been through treatment with me.

It’s mad how much talking to people helped – my grandparents, all my mates, anybody like that. It clears so many things up in your head you don’t know are there.

In a way, it was the best decision I ever made, really, to go and get some clarity on how I was feeling.

I think getting cancer for me has been an unfortunate privilege. It's such a crap thing to go through, and I would never wish upon my worst enemy.

But if someone said to me two years ago, you'll be in this position in two years’ time, I would probably go through it again. Because of the things I've learnt from it, the people I've met, and the connections I have now. I’m a new man.

We're here for you

If you or someone you love has cancer, we are here with you.

Come and see us at your nearest Maggie’s, call us on 0300 123 180 or email us at enquiries@maggies.org.

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