I remember the day of my diagnosis so clearly, as if I was a fly on the wall seeing my exact reactions to the words ‘Jack, you have cancer’. I remember everything, the look on my face, my mum and dad sitting next to my hospital bed, and the doctor standing beside us with his regretful news. This memory is so vivid to me because it was the day that changed my life.
I was diagnosed in December 2005, at the age of 11, with Non-Hodgkins T-Cell Lymphoma – a cancer of the blood. I underwent two years of intense chemotherapy and finally managed to beat this dreadful disease.
My journey to recovery was hard, but the psychological effects were harder. Although I had such a supportive family and great friends, I always felt alone, different to everyone else.
Many weeks I would have to live in isolation, as my immunity was so low that even a cold, or the flu could be fatal. I looked different, I had no hair, my face swelled because of the treatment I was having, I looked sick. I couldn’t do the things my friends could do, and felt as though I missed out on two years of my childhood.
However, my battle against cancer was a fight made easier by the team at the Youth Cancer Trust (YCT). With their help, I was given an opportunity to escape my reality and enjoy a week at Tracy Ann House, Bournemouth. The charity provided me, and other patients like myself, with a holiday full of activities and a chance to be around others that were also in the same position.
Here, my feelings of isolation were gone and I no longer felt abnormal. There I have met one of my closest friends, and have created some of the best memories that I have. To be around others that understand you, and have shared your experiences, is something which made my treatment almost bearable.
Another aspect which is great about this charity is that you will always be invited back, even after you have finished with your treatment. This is so important because those that are ill can see those that have recovered, as living proof that there can be a light at the end of the tunnel.
The work of all the staff involved with the YCT, has made such a difference to the lives of so many young people with cancer. Often when you battle this disease, people call you an inspiration. But, it is those that dedicate their lives to helping that are the real inspiration. The team at the YCT are not just an organisation, they are a family, and that’s what makes this charity so special.