Finally leaving hospital after months of chemo, TBI and dreaming of life outside of hospital can be an extremely surreal experience. The initial excitement is massive. When I was let out, all I could think about was getting back to my bed, back to seeing my dog and family and back to living freely in my own home. I wasn’t really living freely, but that didn’t really matter – I was home – away from the constant presence of nurses, away from the lack of privacy, away from the doctors and wards, uncomfortable beds and ill patients! It was weird at first, I was so excited to be back home but too tired and weak to do anything but sleep!
The truth was, moving from hospital to home was like moving from one prison to another (nicer) prison. You enjoy all the luxuries of the nicer prison but you’re still in prison... That was what it was like for me. Summer came around and I was hardly allowed to go out of my house. Every day I saw my sister go and come back from school and for the first time in my life I wished I could be at school! I couldn’t meet up with friends in case they were ill and they gave me something that may put me back in hospital (not that I wanted to see them looking so ill and without any hair). I couldn’t go anywhere public where there were lots of people in a confined space. I even had to be careful around my dog!
Going back to school was scary at first! Seeing how much everyone had changed whilst I’d been away was weird. I had to go back part time at first and it was clear that neither the school nurse nor my mum were very happy with my stubborn persistence to go straight back to full time as it didn’t suit their shared idea of me slowly integrating back in. luckily I didn’t have to repeat a year but I did feel significantly behind for the first few months of my return. That was hard going into GCSE’s simply because I felt so far behind people I used to imagine myself in front of or on par with. Overall I think I’ve caught up well and after just doing my GCSE’s I feel like overall it didn’t significantly impact my exams. Due to the TBI affecting my concentration I did have extra time in all of my exams but lots of the time I didn’t feel like I needed it which boosted my confidence somewhat.
On a more serious note, there are still times where I remember the sad times, the friends who didn’t make it, the ones who didn’t pull through. I feel lucky in a way because I feel like I didn’t really ‘fight’ like everyone tells me I did. They were extremely unlucky whilst fortunately I wasn’t. But that’s life and the only thing I can do is to think of those people who couldn’t do the things I’m doing today and feel lucky that I’ve got my health. Everything I do to fundraise or raise awareness will be done with them in mind.
Everyone’s proud of how well I’m doing “considering I spent so long in hospital” but I don’t think of it like that. I don’t want to live a life where I am doing well ‘considering my situation’ I want to be doing well full stop. Being more than 3 years on from my transplant thinking back that far is strange and I feel like life has returned to normal (at last). I just hope I can keep progressing to complete my goals and whilst I’ll never forget about my experience with cancer, I hope I can use it as an advantage to help raise awareness and to beat blood cancers.
Watch Joe carrying the Olympic Torch in 2012