A teenager who survived childhood leukaemia has written an open letter of hope to help other children who have been diagnosed with blood cancer.
Ed Garside (pictured above), now 17, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia when he was just eight years old after he suddenly became extremely tired, pale and developed unexplainable red marks on his legs.
Ed, who hails from Telford in Shropshire, received over three years of treatment at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Birmingham’s Children Hospital. This included around ten months of intensive chemotherapy during which he experienced his worst side effects including hair loss and severe fatigue.
I’m sorry to hear that you are fighting blood cancer and I hope that what I have to say will help you to get through it.
My main piece of advice is to spend time with your family and friends whenever you can. They will help you through it all. Believe me, I know. I was just 8 years old when I faced my battle with leukaemia and I beat it.
Be strong. Be positive. Be hopeful. The standard two or three years of chemotherapy is a long time, but the finish line is reachable. You just need to maintain your strength and your belief because you can cross that finish line. And when you cross it, you will feel unbelievably amazing emotions.
I had cancer 9 years ago and I am now 17 years old. I successfully finished my GCSEs, just sat my AS levels, and will sit my A-level exams next year. I am currently very healthy and living a normal life.
My point is that while it may be tough, you can get there. At times, the odds may look bad, but they are beatable. Keep believing and keep thinking positively because beating cancer is possible and I am proof of that.
I am now at sixth form studying the subjects I love yet when I was going through all the chemotherapy, I never thought all of this would be possible because my school attendance was so poor due to the cancer. Up until I was 13 and in Year 9, my attendance was below 80%. However, I started my GCSEs in Year 10, finished them May 2016 and got great grades, including an A*.
I will not let the after-effects of cancer stop me from achieving my goals and ambitions and I encourage you to do the same. It is possible to live a brilliant life despite having had cancer as a child, so please remember that.
Stay strong and keep fighting!
Ed says: “I wrote this letter because I want to help as many children as I can who are battling through the same disease. I want them to take hope from my battle against cancer, I want to inspire them and make them believe that they too can beat cancer. No matter how difficult it may seem, cancer is beatable. I am proof of that and I want all these brave children to realise and believe that cancer can be beaten.”
To mark Blood Cancer Awareness Month this September, we launched a national campaign to highlight the urgent need for better, kinder and less toxic treatments for children. Blood cancer is the most common cancer among children and young people. Over 1,100 under-25s are diagnosed every year in the UK, usually with either acute lymphoblastic leukaemia or Hodgkin lymphoma.
Current childhood blood cancer treatment is brutal and can last for years. In addition to hair loss, vomiting and fatigue, treatment can result in extended periods away from school, isolation, infertility and an increased risk of further cancer in adulthood.
Dr Alasdair Rankin, our director of research, says: “the reality is that one in five children diagnosed with the most common type of leukaemia still do not survive, and that those who do often experience devastating side effects both during and after treatment. This is simply not good enough. We need to save every child’s life, make the treatment process much kinder and give them the life they would have had without cancer. Only by funding more research into better treatments will we be able to finish the job that has been started and give children the best possible cancer treatment.”
Download the full report Childhood blood cancer; the quest for a kinder cure.