I was just 15 years old when I was diagnosed with cancer.
Before my diagnosis I loved playing football and I was about to start my GCSE’s at school. I started to feel unwell, so I went to my doctors, but they just put my symptoms down to growing pains and said there was nothing to worry about.
Over the next six months things started to get a lot worse, until one day I was sick at school and had to go home. I went to the doctors a further seven or eight times before I eventually ended up in hospital.
It all started with a lump in my throat. At first, it just felt like my throat was swollen, then it became difficult to eat and the lump became painful.
I had a scan in hospital and was told I had tuberculosis. It wasn’t until another doctor looked over the scan that they changed their mind. I stayed in hospital overnight and was eventually told that I had cancer.
I was diagnosed with Stage 3B Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I had cancer in my throat, around my heart and in my groin and I needed to start treatment straight away.
I didn’t know how to take the news at the time; after all I was only 15. My family didn’t take it very well, especially my mum who was really emotional. That was the worst part; not the diagnosis, but seeing how upset my family were.
It all happened so quickly and I started chemotherapy the next day.
One month into my treatment, my family came to visit me in hospital. Everyone was really emotional. It turned out that my body wasn’t responding well to the treatment and there hadn’t been a change since my last scan. I thought to myself, no one is going to tell me I may not make it, I’m my own person and I need to fight for myself. If I’m strong enough, I can get through anything.
Ten more months of chemotherapy, my treatment had finally finished. By this time, I had missed large amounts of school. I would spend some time with a home tutor when I was in hospital, but this wasn’t full-time education. I used to try and go into school when I could, but my teachers were really unsupportive and told me that I either had to be fully committed to school, or just stick to home tutoring, I couldn’t do both. I even went in to sit my exams when I could to try and get some qualifications as it was such an important school year. After some discussions with my school, they agreed that they would put forward my predicted GCSE grades for the exams I was too unwell to sit, however when result day came, there was a lot of blank spaces next to some of the subjects. It turned out the school was too late in submitting my grades.
This put me off education for quite a while and I didn’t want to be a part of the system anymore.
My life started to change when I became involved with Teens Unite. The first time I took notice of them was in hospital, when I received a birthday card from the charity. I didn’t have many cards and I was feeling quite low. I opened their card and it put a huge smile on my face. I started looking in to the charity and then went along to a cake making workshop they had organised. The rest is history.
It was so good just to get away from everything and be around people that really understood what I was going through. I even met someone straight away who had the same type of cancer as me. When you’re with Teens Unite, you don’t have people asking you questions all the time. If they do ask, it’s because they genuinely care.
I’ve been involved with them for a long time now, and Debbie has really helped me on my way. She found me a sponsor who wanted to help me progress in life. They wanted to get me back into education, but an education I was interested in and that would benefit me long-term. It’s changed my whole life. I am now studying football coaching and pursuing this as a career.
I had never thought about what I wanted to do and my choices were always limited because I didn’t have the right qualifications. I had given up on education, but Debbie turned my view around. Before I started my coaching course, university was never a possibility, whereas now it’s a realistic option to consider for the future.
I feel so positive now, there’s no need to be upset. I am nearly five years in remission and I’ve got a lot to be happy about.
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Volunteering with Teens Unite has changed my personality and outlook on life. When I hear all the amazing things the teens say about Teens Unite, I can tell they mean every word.Nathan, 23, Volunteer
Teens Unite isn't just a charity to me, it was the beginning of restarting my life.Jess, 22, Teen, Acute Myeloid Leukaemia
When Elliot started receiving the support of Teens Unite, I could see a change in him straightaway. His outlook on life was becoming positive again and I gained strength from seeing my little boy accepting what had happened and starting to move forward.David, Parent to Elliot, 18, Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma
I needed help and that's where Teens Unite came in. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and the reason I met Teens Unite was to save my life.Harry, 20, Teen, Testicular Cancer
With Teens Unite, I finally realised that I could climb out of this massive hole that I had been digging because I wasn't alone anymore.Leanne, 21, Teen, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia
If it wasn't for Teens Unite, I wouldn't be where I am now. They have been really supportive and given me the strength to push myself and not give up.Derry, 20, Teen, Brain Tumour
My wife inspired me to volunteer following her fight against cancer. I wanted to help others carry on living their lives the way she did. And that's exactly what Teens Unite does.John, 64, Volunteer