Tuesday, 19 May 2015


It's exam season, and I thought I would share what effect having cancer has had on my education and exams. I'm in Year 12 in the UK, meaning that I would usually being sitting my AS exams, but under recommendation of my school I'm not, and the reason why, I think, is unfair.
With exams boards you can apply for something called "mitigating circumstances" - a reason why you fail to perform to expected standards in the exams. This can cover anything from a recent death of a friend or relative to serious illness. I could have applied for this, and I would have received an additional 4% that would have been added to my score from each exam. That is not much at all, and would be unlikely to have pushed me into the next grade, so is ultimately pointless. What really annoys me though is that if you have a broken leg, you would receive 3%. Yes, that broken leg would be a bit annoying, and perhaps a bit of a distraction, but the fact that going from a broken leg to cancer is only worth 1% is a bit offensive to be honest! I'd like to argue that being diagnosed with cancer has much more of an emotional and physical impact on a young person than a broken leg, which is often back to normal in 2 or 3 months.
I'd completed around 3/4 of the work on the syllabus and had also completed Chemistry and English coursework to on or near my target grade for both subjects, and I take Maths and Government and Politics of which I had completed several assessments to the standard of my target grade. What I don't understand is why the exam boards couldn't have just given me my target grade for each subject and allowed me to have continued as normal - there is work I have completed to that standard. It shows a lack of trust in schools, as they would suspect the work hadn't of been completed on my own etc. All they have done is kicked me when I'm down.
What angers me further is that there will be others in my situation. In some ways I am lucky in the sense that I already have my GCSEs, so I can choose to leave at any time if I decide to - whereas those taking GCSEs have no choice, and may be held back a year through no fault of their own.
I now face taking my AS and A2 exams all at the same time in June 2016 - which I am aware is no mean feat. I'm going to drop English Literature to make it easier for myself so I stand a chance of getting the grades I want. I'd like to do Politics and Economics at University, so just taking the 3 subjects I need and hopefully getting the grades I want in those will (again) hopefully be enough. My treatment may run into the next academic year, but fingers crossed I will be able to carry on in September where I left off. My school have been fantastic which has been a great help - they are willing to accommodate me whatever happens and whatever I decide to do in September.
I understand that the rules are in place so that people don't abuse the system, because there will always be some who try. However, it would not be hard for them to ring the hospital where I am getting treated to confirm the situation. Surely there must be a better way, so that young people like me aren't punished further by 'Having cancer' which is ultimately outside of their control.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Wig day! - 7/5/15

I'm feeling very positive after visiting a salon in Nottingham and ordering a wig! For me the biggest problem was knowing that I would lose my hair over time, but the wig I have picked is very comfortable and is similar to how my hair was before. When I was diagnosed I decided to get my hair cut short, as for me it meant I had more control over what was happening, although in reality it wouldn't change.
My hair was very long, as I had been growing it out for the summer, but I decided that it would be much less scary to have short hairs fall out, as supposed to hair falling out at its previous length.
It was a bit of a shock with the difference, but after a couple of weeks I've got used to it. Kim, a family friend, came and cut my hair at home, which made me feel much more relaxed, and crucially meant that no one in a salon would ask why I was having my hair cut, because it was the last thing I wanted to talk about with somebody I don't know. When I'm feeling ill, it's much easier to maintain as well on a practical level. I was torn at one point between leaving it as long as I could for as long as I could, but I would definitely recommend anyone in the same situation to do the same.
For the wig, I decided to try and replicate the hair I used to have. I had thought about getting a really different wig in a blue or a purple perhaps, but I decided that when I walked down the street that I wanted people to look at me and not think I was wearing a wig.
So this is the style I went for! It's not as long as I had hoped for, but the wig was warm to try on for just a few minutes, so a long wig in the summer probably isn't the best idea. The colour won't be the same as in the picture, a shade or two darker probably, to try and match my natural colour. The wig is also real hair, meaning I will be able to style it using heat and even dye if I chose to at any point, so it would feel like normal. I will hopefully have the wig later on next week, which is good timing as my hair is slowly starting to fall out, but should easily last until then. I would recommend to get a referral to a salon as soon as possible if you know you will lose your hair, as nurses at the hospital have informed me that some people's hair lasts days, and others can last months! It's definitely better to be prepared.
CLIC Sargent and the Little Princess Trust have both been very helpful in getting me referrals and information about wigs and hair services, and have really helped to make a difficult situation less stressful.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

The Journey so Far

I found out I had cancer the day after my 17th birthday on the 7th of April 2015. I had been feeling unwell for a few weeks before this, but this was obviously still a considerable shock which I would say only now has begun to sink in. I have stage 2 Hodgkin's Lymphoma which is a type of blood cancer mainly affecting young and elderly people. It is slow to progress and early stage symptoms are difficult to detect, meaning it is rarely found at stage 1. Before I was diagnosed, I noticed a small lump near by collar bone that looked like a swollen gland, and was believed to be by my GP to be an infection because of my high temperature. I was put on antibiotics which obviously did nothing before being referred to the hospital for a biopsy which confirmed the cancer. Everything was put into perspective from that moment on. The little things paled into insignificance and being around my family and friends was, and still is, the thing I wanted to do the most. I'm on my first round of chemotherapy, and I've had good days and bad even though I am only 9 days in. I thought it would be good for me to make a blog, not only so that when I'm having a bad day I can look back and see the good so I can continue to make progress, but to hopefully tell other people my age an honest account of what it's like to be a teenager with cancer. Word of advice, don't google it! (I haven't but it was the first thing my specialist said and I can understand why he said it.) From what limited experience I have of 'having cancer' I already feel like it carries the same sort of social stigma as mental health problems. Although very different circumstances requiring very different action, they both have the same result. People don't know what to say. Sometimes it gets too much and I don't know what to say.  So I thought I would type it instead.