Meet Katie, 18, Acute Myeloid Leukaemia

Meet Katie, 18, Acute Myeloid Leukaemia

I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia, just after turning eighteen. At that time I was in my final year of school, doing my A levels and finalising my university choices for the following year.

The diagnosis dramatically changed my life instantly, as I was no longer allowed to leave the hospital from the moment the doctors told me I had cancer. This was due to me basically having a very weakened immune system, with no way to fight off infections. I was transferred to the Royal Marsden in Sutton, where I was given inpatient care for several months. This necessitated the complete halt of all of my schooling and plans for the future. I'd be lying if I didn't say the treatment was pretty grim! I would never wish intense chemotherapy on anyone and if it hadn't been for my family and friends, who literally dragged me through the whole process kicking and screaming, (I really did not put on a brave face- I was a complete mess!), I would have seriously questioned whether the treatment was really worth it.  

The biggest struggles for me were probably the psychological ones. The doctors really do go above and beyond to make sure that you are as comfortable and symptom-less as possible, but knowing that you might die in the foreseeable future or wondering whether you will ever return to normal, takes its toll. When in hospital, there was always the possibility of the treatment not working and that was a very scary prospect for someone who was normally a total stress-head for the many trivial or insignificant things of daily life. After hospital, I was totally paranoid about pretty much any sign that I could have relapsed and I didn't really allow myself to get too comfortable with my situation. Having all of my friends go off to university and on with their lives, and me having to join a completely new school year was also incredibly daunting and felt a bit embarrassing. I found it quite difficult to relate to the people surrounding me and I often felt a little lost and isolated throughout that year. It was even worse, when they asked me why I had taken a year out- as it still felt so fresh and I didn't want them to look at me differently (even though looking back at it- I really didn't have that much hair, so it was really obvious!).  

I can happily say that my situation has drastically improved since then and I've now been in remission for just over three years. I can heartily attest that Teens Unite have played an enormous part in my psychological recovery and I think it is true to say that they really were the tipping point for me to think positively again about my life. My friend on the ward at the hospital recommended them to me after taking part in one of their fun teens days. Ever the sceptic and nervous, I was hesitant to book myself onto one of their events for fear of being an outsider- so it was only months after I had left the hospital, did I sign myself up for anything. However, I really shouldn't have worried, as on my first teens day (Mothers' day afternoon tea) I met some really lovely people and had a really great time. After only seeing ill or dying people in the hospital, I didn't really have any examples of cancer success stories to look to. As a polar opposite to this, outside of hospital, I felt slightly like a freak of nature and I could almost see others pinning me down as the tragedy in the room. As a result, I must have come across to a lot of people as very awkward and introverted- something which I wasn't used to at all, being quite a confident and friendly person before my diagnosis. It was therefore a very pleasant relief at my first event, when many of the other people who were there had been in remission for several years already and it gave me a lot of hope that if they could return back to normal, then so could I! After that, I went to the Teens Unite Activity Stay and have never looked back. Teens Unite have given me a huge network of support and friends for life. They really do go the extra mile to put on fantastic events for us and keep us all in contact with each other- something which I am enormously grateful for. Teens Unite will always hold a dear place in my heart for giving me back my confidence and sense of normality again.

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