Hi, my name is Kate and I live in Plymouth…

kate-oliverI was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma in my right shoulder blade in October 2000, I was 16. I had completed my GCSE’s and had just started doing my A levels.

I had been in horrendous pain with my shoulder for 18 months by this point. With continuous visits to my GP, I was told the usual response that is was ‘growing pains’. I somehow struggled through my GCSE’s despite having little sleep due to the pain. Eventually I was referred for physiotherapy once a week, but I complained after each session that it was getting worse. Luckily on one particular session the physiotherapist noticed a lump on my shoulder blade. She was so concerned by this she immediately spoke to my Doctor who arranged for me to have an X-ray.

After this, everything happened so quickly. I was called into my local hospital the day after the X-ray to be told they were 99% sure I had cancer. I was 16 years old and just couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I then went through a very intense week of scans, blood tests, biopsies etc. The outcome, I was told, was that I had a very aggressive bone cancer that had already ‘eaten’ most of my shoulder blade. I was given a 40% chance of beating it with intensive chemotherapy. At the time I was scared, but the worst part was the thought of losing my hair and not being able to continue with my studies.

For the next year my world was about cancer. It was a lonely place as I was always treated in a small room on my own, on a children’s ward. My school friends couldn’t relate to me and I no longer could relate to them. After a year of intensive chemotherapy, a major operation and nearly losing my life several times, I beat it!

KateAgainst all odds, my positive attitude gave me the strength and willpower to claim back my life. After that, my whole attitude to life changed. I had been given a second chance and I sure as hell was going to make the most of it. I only ever wanted to move forward. So, instead of going back to re-sit my A levels, I decided to go to Art College instead. I then got into University and got a degree in Graphic Design. Then, I went on to do a PGCE in Art and Design and became a Special Needs Art Teacher.

Throughout my battle with cancer and after, I felt very alone. All I wanted was to be able to interact with other people of a similar age whom I could relate to. It was then in 2002 I came across the Youth Cancer Trust. This charity changed my life in a huge way. For the first time it gave me a place to get away from everyday life and actually for the first time, be able to talk about my experiences and emotions with other people who understood, who didn’t judge and who didn’t look at me as ‘the girl who had cancer’. When I come to the YCT house I actually feel ‘normal’. I never feel different and I can be myself.

I think cancer is a very difficult thing to understand and it is part of you for life. However, it should never make you a victim and coming to Tracy Ann House has shown me that actually, I can do anything. I have made some amazing lifelong friends through the charity and the confidence it has given me is amazing. I feel so inspired every time I come here by different people I meet and always go away beaming with confidence and enthusiasm. Everyone here works so hard to give us the best time and it really does feel like my second home.

Coming here really has changed my whole outlook on life. I realise I have a lot to be grateful for and I can’t thank the Youth Cancer Trust enough for all their love, help and support they have, and continue to give me.