It's been one whole year since I was told "your scan is clear, you're in REMISSION" and to be honest it still doesn't seem real, I don't think it ever will.
If you don't know my journey with the dreaded C word I'll do a little catch up.. Towards the end of 2013, I was working as a supervisor at a family run restaurant and although I was under a lot of stress at work with the Christmas season I was enjoying life although I'd not been feeling well for about a month. I was always tired and never felt like I had any energy, it didn't help that I was hardly sleeping as I was having night sweats and was severely itching. l also had no appetite and had been losing a LOT of weight.
My diagnosis & initial treatment
After a lot of blood tests, a CT scan, bone marrow aspiration and a biopsy of a lump in my neck on the 9th January 2014 I was officially diagnosed with stage 2B Hodgkin's Lymphoma. As well as being diagnosed with cancer in January I also lost my job as they had gone into administration - not the best news - but I put that to the back of my mind as it wasn't as important as fighting for my life.
I went through six long months of chemotherapy but unfortunately this wasn't enough and after a lot of testing on the 29th December 2014 it was confirmed the cancer had made a comeback. Just one week later I was admitted for my first round of intensive chemotherapy which took a toll on my already weak body. I was in and out of hospital as an in-patient for about a month for treatment. I had 5 weeks at home in between tests before being admitted to Heartlands hospital in Birmingham for an auto stem cell transplant. Thankfully all this worked and on the 30th June 2015 I was officially cancer free.
Being in remission
It feels amazing to be in remission and I couldn't be happier to have reached this milestone of one year but it's not come without it's problems as I'm sure anyone who's battled cancer knows. Everyday comes with an new challenge whether it be physical or mental although I have found those bad days will only make you stronger. I do struggle with lots of new issues since remission including PTSD, depression, fatigue, anxiety and infertility.
They don't tell you that the moment you hear those words "you have cancer" your entire world changes, forever. No one tells you that surviving cancer is harder than fighting it, no one tells you about the waves of depression that will consume you, no one tells you that you will have survivor's guilt and every time you hear someone else didn't survive, it breaks you.
It sucks to have been diagnosed with cancer at 23, it sucks to worry that every bump, bruise and aching pain might be the onset of a brand new tumour ready to turn my life upside down again. I think the worst part about being in remission is knowing that the cancer can come back at any given moment, not a day goes by where I don't worry about it coming back but I guess it's just part of that magical rollercoaster ride that I will never be able to get off.
I believe that everything happens for a reason and for some reason, I was given that awful news which has shaped the person I am today and I wouldn't change it. No one knows what's round the corner but you just have to get the best out of a bad situation, when I look back it really is insane of how far I have come. I've been given a second chance at life and there is no greater gift than that so I want to make it count!
Becoming a Bloodwise Ambassador
Since finishing treatment I've had some amazing opportunities and I am SO grateful for every single one of them, if it wasn't for cancer those wouldn't have happened so, thanks cancer. I am forever grateful of the amazing support from friends, family and charities.
In December last year I got asked to share my story to the Bloodwise community which I had an amazing response to, knowing that I'm helping just one person makes me very happy. A couple of days after I received an email asking me if I would be interested in becoming an ambassador for Bloodwise. Well, of course I said yes - what an amazing opportunity! It was such an honour to be asked and such an exciting responsibility.
I couldn't have imagined I'd be able to say I'm an ambassador for any charity but to say I'm one for Bloodwise means the absolute world to me as without the research they do I wouldn't be here today. They do such amazing work including research, supporting blood cancer patients and they campaign to ensure the concerns of blood cancer patients are on the political agenda.
When I was first diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma I had no idea it was a blood cancer or any type of cancer if I'm honest this is why it's so important to raise awareness as with awareness there comes hope. In my role as a ambassador I hope to support blood cancer patients and represent Bloodwise at patient events which I did on the 14th May as I attended my first event as a ambassador at Birmingham Impact day which I absolutely loved! I met some of my fellow ambassadors including one girl who I'd connected with through Instagram called Ellie. The day was full of speeches from researchers & people affected by blood cancer, such an inspiring day and I can't wait to go to more events like this.
Race for Life
Last year I spent most of my time fighting for my life and recovering from my stem cell transplant but as 2016 came round I knew I wanted to throw myself into fundraising so the first thing I did was to sign up for Cancer Research - Race for Life, not only did I sign myself up but I made a team full of my family and friends which I called Samba's Army.
I knew taking on a 5K only a year post transplant wouldn't be easy, to me a 5K felt like I was running a marathon BUT I did it and me and my team managed to raise a massive £1,718.77 which I know will go such a long way in the fight against cancer.
Team Samba, charity night & future challenges
I also want to raise awareness of blood cancer and raise money for Bloodwise so they can continue their amazing research so I have not long set up my own charity page on Facebook called Team Samba. I would love and really appreciate it if you could give it a 'like' as I would like to get as much awareness for blood cancer out there as possible.
I have also started planning for a charity night which is to be held on the 12th November 16' and although organising everything has been stressful I'm so excited about it all, If I get enough interest I want to try and make it an annual event each year. As well as events like this I would love to do little challenges throughout the year for example an abseil or something similar.
My big challenge is to be able to do the London marathon one day but I'm not sure when that'll be, I'm guessing a few years yet. I'll probably enter a 10k next and work up to it! So I've got lots going on this year but I hope this is only the start. Together we will beat blood cancer!
For anyone going through treatment right now keep going - you'll be where I am before you know it but remember if you're struggling there is always someone who understands please reach out. I'm going to end my post with this quote.. "The truth is that cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me. I don't know why I got the illness, but it did wonders for me, and I wouldn't want to change, even for a day, the most important and shaping event in my life."