Harry’s Story

The start of my journey was a long rough one to say the least, I have managed to compile it down to two paragraphs I hope you enjoy reading the start of my story!

So it all started in late 2014 after my end of year show with my college. I was becoming more tired daily and seemed to have gained what felt like a badly pulled muscle at first from dancing. For a while it stayed just as a pulled muscle would but was worrying me as it didn’t seem to get better only worse. I visited my GP and told him the pain I had been having, he instantly said it must be growing pains and the dancing is aggravating them and gave me some pain killers to help. It kept on getting worse and my trips to see professionals were becoming more frequent as time went on and I eventually stopped dancing whilst at college. It even got to the point I was taken to A&E from work as I felt like my body was ceasing up and just would not move without me being in absolute agony.

I started making trips to any professional that could come up with a diagnosis and it became more and more frequent as time passed. Each time I ended up at A&E in absolute agony they would treat me like a time waster and send me home within half hour of being there. Doctors then went on to tell me I could have sciatica, brittle bone disease or hip displasia. After being told it could be one of these I got referred back to my GP by an A&E doctor to have an MRI scan. The A&E doctor had seen how many doctors and professionals I had seen but had no true diagnosis to show what was wrong with me. By this time the pain was getting worse everyday, I was rapidly losing weight without realising and the pain had shifted from feeling like a pulled muscle to feeling like my legs were being pulled out the socket. I went to see my GP and explained the pains I had been having, he replied simply telling me he didn’t think I was in enough pain to warrant needing an MRI as he had no clue what was wrong with me and the procedure is expensive and pointless as he felt it would come back with nothing. Eventually I got so ill to the point my body started shutting down at college and I felt like my insides were burning and it was a struggle to do the simplest of tasks. At this point I went home to visit my parents and seek help as I was struggling to look after myself at home. That day I was finally admitted to Maidstone hospital majors after my mum called an ambulance because I couldn’t move at all. Within 16 hours of being admitted I was in a ward. I stayed for a week and within that week I had 2 MRI’s, a CT, countless bloods taken and a lymph node biopsy in my neck. This was all just the beginning of my cancer journey.

Finally being diagnosed and then having Chemotherapy was possibly the most gruelling 8 months of my life. It really changed me emotionally and physically.

On 16th of December 2015 I was awoken in my hospital bed to be told that I had been diagnosed with stage 4b Hodgkin’s lymphoma. They gave me lots of booklets on what my type of cancer was and how it would affect my life, I was then told they are looking to cure me with a chemotherapy treatment plan but nothing was certain and we wouldn’t know if it was working until after my set of treatment had finished. My first reaction was “am I going to lose my hair?!”. I then had to wait until the 18th of January 2016 to undergo my first set of chemotherapy at Kent oncology. My first chemo was so rough on my body I had to be admitted back into hospital to stay as my temperature spiked and I was throwing up throughout the chemo session. Within three days of starting my chemo my hair started to fall out so I decided to have it shaved off before it went patchy. The first set of chemo was very invasive and I had to have it three times a week for different durations, the longest session being 6 hours.

I had nearly every side effect of my chemo hit me almost immediately, my hair fell out, I lost my sense of taste, I would have very bad nausea to the point I couldn’t be near certain foods as the smell would set me off. I had to be close to a toilet at all times as I couldn’t hold anything in. My chemo was a very painful experience, it gave me a burning feeling in my veins and my arms would feel like they where on fire during my treatment sessions. The only way to stop the pain was heavy doses of painkillers and icepacks near the cannula where my chemo was being administered. After my first set of chemo I had a CT-pet scan and it came back very positive and my cancer had seemed to be reducing like my consultant had hoped it would. After I had the second round of the first treatment I had undergone they downgraded my chemo to one that was a lot less invasive and I only had to attend to have it once every two weeks. I had eventually had the maximum chemo I could have, couldn’t have anymore and my last chemo was on the 23rd of June 2016. It was followed by another CT-pet scan to see how well it had worked, I was then told the amazing news that my cancer had gone into remission and I am now in a five year remission plan where it could come back but is unlikely as the chemo had worked so well.

The last leg to my story;(This was hard for me to write… but it’s my story and now I’m getting better I’m taking it and owning everything I’ve been through. Because it hasn’t been easy and in the long run is making me a stronger, more empathetic person and I really enjoy the little things in life.)

Going into remission sounded at first like a dream to me as it felt like I could see the end of the horrible cancer journey, only to find that remission and recovery after having cancer is possibly the hardest thing I would ever endure. After I was told I would be getting better it became an obsession to get myself fit again and go back to college to take on the third year course that was offered. For third year I would have to take on the level 4 practitioner coursework as well as the dance, singing and acting training. I had come to an arranged timetable with my tutors to make life as easy as possible, but unfortunately no matter how hard the tutors and I tried to accommodate me I just couldn’t train the way I used to after my chemo. I never really realized until this moment how much the cancer had actually effected my life as a whole. When being diagnosed I had to quit two jobs, my college placement which I had worked hard to get to and move back in with my parents after moving out and getting my independence. Because of what I had in my life before cancer I constantly just wanted to get back to that and it made me constantly feel like I had to validate myself and do better than what I felt others expected of me and I pushed myself to hard after my chemo.

Within two weeks of starting college I started losing weight again and ended up having to have at least a day off sick a week. As time went on I started to suffer with depression and anxiety. They both really took a hold on me as I just wasn’t performing in life at the potential I used to, for a while I had no clue how to deal with it and I would literally break down at the slightest thing. It got to the point at the start of this year I was suffering with suicidal depression as I just felt nothing worked for me anymore and just couldn’t see a way out. It wasn’t that I didn’t have family and friends supporting me it was the fact I was just so unhappy with the way my life was turning out, I had worked so hard for everything I had. It really felt like the cancer just killed it all away and I was left empty and hopeless with everything. I ended up dropping the college course for my health and I was in a really dark place for a while, no matter what no one could pull me out of it. Until the day I was introduced to YouCan and another charity group named Freddie’s Friends. Immediately they started setting up lots of things for me to do and I started going to a group meeting where I met the most hilarious and welcoming group of people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting!

It wasn’t easy for me to write this post as it is very personal to me, I hate talking about myself when it comes to cancer because for a long time it was destroying me and I was too wrapped up trying to get my old life back I never realised this amazing new one I have been given! If it wasn’t for YouCan and their amazing staff I really don’t know where I would be right now if I’m honest. This post just goes to show that charities like YouCan cancer support are invaluable for people like me during remission! The amount they have helped me since joining them is just indescribable. I have had some amazing CBT therapy which has helped me overcome a lot of mental issues that kept me depressed for a long time, I am being set up with a personal trainer to get my fitness up, I have a holiday break booked at their new house and to top it off I have met some amazing people through the charity and I honestly feel this is an amazing place.

To read more about the young people YouCan support click here.