Only two weeks before my 18th birthday, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, one of the most common cancers amongst 13-24 year olds. My symptoms were scarce and vague which meant when it came to my diagnosis, my cancer was at a stage so bad, the tumours inside my chest were one, the size of a melon (?!) and the other a tennis ball. I’d gone to numerous GP visits to identify why I was feeling tired, why I had a persistent cough and why I had no appetite, but never did I or the GP think my symptoms meant cancer. In the end, the tumours in my chest had made me develop pneumonia, so that and a chest X-ray were the tipping points to finding out I had cancer. I found this out right at the start of my final year of secondary school so I had to drop out of school because of my high risk of infection and had to put completing my A levels on hold.
THE COMPLICATED MIDDLE...
The following year consisted of differing chemotherapy's. I began with the protocol treatment for someone who was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. But as my tumours were so large, the doctor's increased the intensity of chemotherapy 3 times, which helped in making the tumours smaller, but didn’t help to get rid of them all together. Considering most patients were treated completely with the first protocol chemotherapy...these intensive drugs were not a fun time for me. After many months and continued failed chemotherapy's, trial drugs were then suggested, so I went on to have antibody treatment which…WORKED!
By now, 10 months had passed and I needed a treatment which would ensure the cancer would stay away. What I needed was a new immune system and the answer to this was to have a bone marrow transplant, a daunting prospect of having inhumane amounts of chemotherapy to kill off all of my own bone marrow and then having a transfusion of someone else’s stem cells, to then re boot my own new and shiny immune system which would keep the cancer away.
THE END TREATMENT...
This transplant was the last of my treatments. It was the most gruelling and difficult of all treatments put together, however, I had the added ease of mind by knowing my match was a perfect match, by receiving stem cells from my brother. I was in isolation for a month, where I hardly left my bed, ate or spoke to friends. But after this month I was then discharged with twice weekly appointments and numerous anti-rejection medications to keep me on track. This period wasn’t easy, but a year down the line I began to feel my normal self again.
I returned to school 6 months after my transplant to complete my A-levels in 3 months, I got the grades to get into my first choice university which I attended 6 months after then. I am now two and a half years cancer free and in my final year of university studies wanting to turn my past experiences into a positive campaign.
THE REASON TO CAMPAIGN...
I have created The Great Orchestra Adventure, as I want to change people’s perceptions about being a bone marrow donor. I aim to break the myth that it’s a scary or painful experience and tell people from first-hand experience that being a donor is something to be proud of and isn't as daunting a commitment as some might think.
Of the 2000 people who are in need of a bone marrow transplant each year, 70% of them need an un-related donor to save their life. I am here today because of my brother who I was lucky to have as my donor.
I want more people to have the chance of life, by making the chance of a match greater through signing as many people as possible to the stem cell register!
The Great Orchestra Adventure combines my passion for orchestral music by targeting orchestra members all over the UK to sign up today by
A BIG THANK YOU TO ALL WHO SUPPORTED ME: