Ruth, acute lymphoblastic leukaemia
When were you diagnosed and what with?
I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in January 2007
How did you find out you had cancer?
I had blood tests taken at the GP after symptoms of tiredness, bruising, heavy and long lasting nosebleeds, fainting and a fast heart rate (I could feel my own heartbeat/pulse as I went about my day, bleugh!). The GP appeared at my door the following evening to tell me the news and I was admitted to hospital that evening for further tests. The ALL was confirmed a couple of days later.
What did you think and feel when you were diagnosed?
I was pretty terrified. I felt a mixture of numbness/denial (“this can’t be happening to me - it will surely all be a mistake, it will all be fine”), and then “I’m probably going to die from this”.
How did the people around you react?
Shock and upset initially. Then gradually people started to become more positive to try and keep me (and probably themselves) upbeat!
What treatment did you have?
I had quite a few different types of chemo - I can’t remember all of the names except for methotrexate, and I had steroids. I had intravenous, oral and intrathecal chemo.
How did you feel through treatment?
A whole rollercoaster of emotions and physical unwellness! My treatment lasted 2 years so it was quite a long time really. Throughout the first year I mostly felt like a bag of crap, what with vomiting, nausea, headaches, nerve issues, a fractured knee (caused by steroids) and a stroke which caused paralysis down my left side. However, the second year was better, and although I often didn’t feel too great, I was definitely able to get back to some form of reality.
What happened after treatment finished?
I continued with school (I had to take an extra year) and went back to my part-time job (grudgingly!). I tried to readjust to life away from hospital and constant appointments… It felt pretty scary and part of me missed the ‘bubble’ that I had been in for the past two years. I threw a massive ‘end of treatment’ party and raised some money for the charities who had helped me!
How did you get involved with Shine?
I came across Shine on Facebook or through an email - I can’t fully remember. The first thing I was really involved in was the Shine Escape 2015.
What difference has Shine made to you?
Being able to meet other young people going through a similar experience has been amazing and so valuable. I had only met a couple of people in my local area of a similar age, both of whom passed away. I learned a lot and faced a lot at the Shine Escape, and had a lot of fun too!
How do you feel now about your experiences? What‘s been the biggest change you’ve faced?
I definitely feel it changed me as a person, mostly for the better. I do feel it held me back in certain ways, and altered the life path I took (which is to be expected to an extent) but also gave me a new appreciation of life and an “you only get one life, so live it” attitude. I think the biggest change I faced was my best friend at the time pretty much disappearing off the face of the earth. I know she was very affected by my diagnosis, but in the end she completely disappeared from my life and I found that really difficult, and still do 10 years on. Short term, the biggest change was probably the hair loss and steroid face I gained, coupled with being absent from school for 6 months!
If you could give one piece of advice to yourself before your what would it be?
“Keep calm and carry on…there is always light at the end of the tunnel”.