Those of you who tuned in to watch Channel 4′s Stand Up to Cancer show last night will know that a statistic often repeated on the show, is that 1 in 3 of us will develop in our lifetime. It’s shocking when it is presented to us like this but I’m sure that a lot of us have been affected by cancer either directly or indirectly. The tone of last night’s program enhanced the devastating effects that cancer can have on an individual, their family and their friends, but that we can Stand Up, donate and do something about it.
As a cancer survivor myself, the program gave cause for reflection about my relationship with the disease and how it has affected my life. I was diagnosed with Leukaemia, a cancer of the blood, when I was just 18 months old. I was extremely fortunate that I was diagnosed early and cared for at the best paediatric hospital in the country, Great Ormond Street, also that I was young enough that I don’t remember the ordeal. My dad gave up his job and moved into hospital with me whilst I was treated with chemotherapy, my mum had to continue working and visited me when she could.
Watching the videos within last night’s program was difficult for me, my dad has always been very open and honest with me about what happened whilst I was in hospital and taken me to appointments since I was very young. My mum on the other hand did not talk about it with me and seemingly did not want to. The videos about sufferers and their families especially the stories of both Ella and Grace were extremely sad and I came closer to understanding just how hard the experience must have been for both my parents.
Towards the end of my chemotherapy, with the last of six courses to go, I unfortunately developed Meningitis which put me into Intensive care. I came through again, with probably the least I could have come away with, damaged hearing, resulting in a high frequency hearing loss which I have hearing aids for.
Needless to say my medical notes are pretty hefty as I continued to have frequent appointments at the hospital, gradually decreasing in frequency until I was 16. At 16 I had an important appointment in which I was handed my medical history, told that I may have problems with insurance and that I may have decreased fertility and a chance of passing Leukaemia on when I have children.
As a 16 year old I thought that I had survived the whole ordeal pretty well, but the doctors explained to me that I’d had the rarer form of childhood Leukaemia, acute myeloid and that chemotherapy at 18 months had been at huge risks to my development. Chemotherapy acts by killing cells that divide rapidly so I had regular appointments to check that my growth had not been affected, the doctors thought that when I hit puberty problems might arise. I am a healthy 5’2″ and a bit, and at this appointment was thrilled to be told I’d grown a centremetre in the past year, little did I know until an hour later just how much my body had been through.
This was the first appointment that my mum took me to, we talked about everything afterwards and although it was hard to ask her about her experience when I was in hospital at 18 months old, it brought us closer together. Whenever I find myself at a tough time in my life my mum holds me close and says ‘Thank goodness you are still here Ellie.’ This gets me every time, but having watched the Stand Up to Cancer broadcast this rings truer than ever and has gained new meaning.
Despite awkward moments, technical issues for Cheryl Cole and the repetition of the same ‘story’ videos, tonight’s program was heartfelt. I think that it successfully portrayed the harsh realities of cancer but balanced it well with comedy, dance and vocal performances. Since its launch in the USA in 2008 millions of dollars have been raised for cancer research, I just hope that after its launch in the UK last night and a grand total of £6,039,982 raised by the end of the program (figure accurate at midnight,) more can be done to continue to fight cancer and increase the chances of survival.
I am now in my third year at Southampton studying English. Although I might not think about the impact that Leukaemia has had on my life everyday, sometimes I am reminded just how lucky I am to be where I am now, last night especially. I don’t think of myself foremost as a cancer survivor but it seems to have informed my outlook on life, I grab all opportunities and try to make the best of everything and I am now the Editor of the Wessex Scene.
I’ve written this article in the hope that I can further increase awareness, tell you to check yourselves and ask that you all, even as students, donate as much as you can afford. We can all Stand Up to Cancer for each other.
To donate on the phone call 0300 123 4444 or you can donate by text by texting ‘FIVE’ or ‘TEN’ to 70404 or online.