Cancer is everywhere, TV adverts, billboards, GP and hospitals, it's even in the food we eat. Regardless of all this information made available to us, you never imagine it will affect you, you never imagine that you'll be the one full of cancer. So how do you cope when you are the one sat in a consultation room being told that you have a huge mass in your abdomen and that it is cancerous. That you're then told it's not just one big tumour, your body is lit up like a christmas tree of tumours, all intent on killing you. I remember everything about that day, the wait, the blood test, the examination, the sadness in my consultants eyes as he broke the news and the defiance in my sisters, my sisters comforting hand on my knee, the tears that involuntarily fell, the fear that encompassed my whole being, breaking the news to friends and families and their broken voices and tears. But as soon as I left that consultation room, I didn't cry, I wanted to be strong for friends, family and myself.
It's very easy to get overwhelmed by the fear, anxiety and injustice of it. I'm 27, I don't smoke, I play sport, i've run two marathons, I was a vegetarian and lived off veggies, so why me? Why is my body betraying me? I could of so very easily driven myself crazy with this questions and thoughts, but what's the point, I have cancer, I can't change it so deal with it. I'm not saying I wasn't scared, because I was, I was bloody terrified. But I woke every morning, swallowed the negative feelings, appreciated all good that was in my life and gave myself a focus. Two months after my diagnosis of late stage non-Hodgkin lymphoma I set up Lumped with Lymphoma, an education and awareness charity aimed at young adults. I was driven by the failings of my diagnosis and the thought of another young person and family having to deal with a cancer diagnosis. Setting up the lymphoma charity is my way of taking on cancer and equally ignoring the fact that I have it! I did not like the feeling of helplessness that came from my diagnosis nor did I want to be absorbed by the feeling of fear, I wanted to stick two fingers up to cancer and create something positive from my very shit situation.
The wonderful and truly magical chemotherapy nurses were saving me and taking on my cancer with six, monthly infusions of chemo and immunotherapy and I was working with family and friends to plan fundraisers and ways to reach out to spread awareness of this increasingly common and devastating disease. With lymphoma being the most common cancer for the under 30's and with so many not even aware that it exists let alone the signs and symptoms I felt compelled to change that, if I made just one person aware and receive an early diagnosis then i'd be happy and it would have made everything so worthwhile.
It has now been two months since my final chemotherapy treatment, but my cancer trip is not over, to prevent my lymphoma from relapsing I am to have two years of immunotherapy treatment (I'm currently sat in a chemo chair having my 4hr IV infusion as I write this). I am also not having a scan to see the stage of my cancer until the two years are up. I guess i'm in cancer limbo. I could be clear and cancer free or my tumours could still very much be there, working against me. But regardless, I live, cancer free or not.
Read Charlotte's blog to keep up to date with her lymphoma journey