Will S
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Living with cancer - a teenage perspective

Will S
Posted by
23 Oct 2013

Just over a year ago I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and it would be impossible to try and give details on everything that has happened in that time. However, I'd like to try and describe the events leading up to my diagnosis and the emotions that immediately followed.

It didn't take long for me to realise that something my health wasn't quite right and in fact the first obvious physical changes happened over night! I'd been feeling under the weather for a few days and so after visiting the GP on the Saturday, I was given some antibiotics with a follow up appointment scheduled for the next week.

Unfortunately, I had a bad reaction to these antibiotics (later I found out that my Grandpa is also allergic to them) and a fist sized lump appeared in the upper right hand side of my neck. I had woken up in the early hours of the morning with my eyes literally sealed shut with that grimy sleep gunk and this lump in my neck!

Instead of waking my parents like most people probably would have, I stumbled downstairs where I pulled open my eye lids and checked out my symptoms online on the NHS website. Most signs seemed to point to glandular fever or a blood infection and leukaemia was the very last potential prognosis on the page so I didn't give it too much thought.

It was only at 5:00am that I decided to wake up my parents who kept calm and told me all the things that I needed to hear to prevent me from panicking too much, reassuring me that we'd visit the GP again the next day to get some new tablets. That Monday my mum took me to the GP and as the lump was still quite prominent in my neck they took a few blood tests and sent us home with the advice to take Paracetemol. I decided to get an early night and then at 9:30pm our GP called and said it was vitally important that we get to Stroud hospital as soon as possible.

What happened next is still a bit of a blur and I only remember disjointed segments of the next few days. That night I was taken to Stroud and then very quickly to Gloucester hospital where I was put on the children's ward. I have almost no recollection of what happened from Monday night to the next Wednesday but I will never forget the moment I was told that I had cancer.

My Mum had stayed by my side almost continuously throughout my time at Gloucester hospital and so when I regained some sort of consciousness she was there sat next to my bed. Apparently the doctors had been in and out the whole time I was there but I honestly couldn't recognise or remember any of them up until that point. I think there were four doctors in total who came into the room and there was no hesitating when they spoke to me, they treated me like an adult and I have huge respect for them for that alone. They said "I'm sure that you were aware of the possibility that you have acute lymphoblastic leukaemia" and the strangest thought went through my head which I can now look back and laugh on, which was "isn't leukaemia cancer?"

Of course I knew that Leukaemia was cancer but it was as if a part of my mind was actively denying it, to the rational side of me. I know it's very cliché to say that after hearing shocking news you hear "white noise" but genuinely I didn't hear another word of what came out any of the Doctor's mouths. I sat on that bed, propped up against the pillows and was completely unmoving, utterly still.

It was at that point that I requested that everyone leave the room, interrupting the Doctor mid-sentence. I lay back trying to compose myself, too weak even to get up to walk to the window and then I called my friend who was in a lesson as it was still only 10:30am. I remember being so furious with him and that's when I began to get hysterical due to him not picking up his phone!! How ridiculous is that?! When he did pick up, I told him straight away through heaving sobs, but made him swear not to tell anyone as I hadn't even told my sister yet and if she found out through anyone but me I could never forgive myself. However, I didn't feel that she could be told through a phone call, so my friend had to keep it a secret for the rest of the day which, when I reflect on now, I see was an incredible ask of him, but at the time I hadn't given it too much thought.

Obviously back then, I had no idea how much my life would change as I believed that cancer just didn't happen to people my age. In my mind it was only people in books and films who were diagnosed with it and even then, purely for the use of a convenient ending to tragedies.

I realise that this blog is very open but it is an honest recount of my feelings now and in the past and will hopefully be of use to anyone that may be experiencing something similar, or may want to understand how people feel about being diagnosed. I cannot reiterate enough just how much I encourage people to ask me questions if they have any at all, no matter how "odd" or "insensitive". Please do not hesitate to get in contact.

I'll be attempting to post a couple of times a week and I look forward to any response I may get.



Thanks for sharing Will


This is a really good read, Will, thanks so much for sharing your story. I can't believe that you had the presence of mind to check out your symptoms online before going to the doctors and I really admire how honest you are in your account. I look forward to reading your future blogs.


Hi Will,

Thank you for sharing and some of your story resonated with me. When I was diagnosed my sister was on holiday in Australia and so it had to be 'kept a secret' until she got back. I ended up telling her when she was collecting her luggage at the airport.....

I also wanted to let you know about the Teenage Cancer Trust. Not sure you are aware of them as you were treated on a children's ward, and by looking at your picture, you are not technically a child! They are great and offer loads of peer support if wanted...



I'm 19, and have just been diagnosed with ALL. Within the past few hours, I believe I have become something of an expert on the disease. It helps to know there are other young people out there who have experienced what I'm going through right now. Thanks for sharing, Will. Best of wishes!


Hi Will,
Just wanted to say hello really. Some of what you said resonates with me and is similar to my diagnosis. My sister was in Australia at the time, so it had to be a 'secret' until she got back so she didn't find out about it on Facebook etc! I saw you were treated on a childrens ward, and just wanted to flag with you the Teenage Cancer Trust. Don't know if you know about them? They are fab and are a great way to have peer support etc.


Hope you're treatment is going well Will. My daughter was diagnosed with ALL recently so we know what you are going though.
Keep up with the blog if you can