Recovering from a procedure as big as my bone marrow transplant wasn’t easy. After being an inpatient at the Teenage Cancer Trust unit in London for 20 weeks, in September 2010 I was finally discharged! It had been two months since my transplant and I was feeling better than ever however I was still vulnerable and everything I did was a potential health risk. My lack of immunity meant that public transport was out of bounds and often I would have to wear a mask, similar to the ones used in the swine flu outbreak a few months prior, on any outings. Being bald was bad enough but wearing the mask really did make me stick out like a sore thumb and that was one of the reasons I continued to feel isolated despite being discharged from hospital.
It was only 18 months earlier that my family and I were told I was suffering with leukaemia and I asked my sister “am I going to die?” – a moment that stuck in my head throughout my treatment. I’m quite similar to my mum, who suffers with Multiple Sclerosis, in the sense that unless I really need to I won’t show anyone that I’m suffering and even when I was being wheeled around hospitals, so pale that I was nearly transparent and feeling like a dog, I would always respond with “I’m fine” whenever anyone asked how I was, but inside I was scared. I was scared to be leaving hospital. I didn’t know what was round the corner for me and if I’d cope being almost in isolation in my own home – a normal teenage life was right in front of me but I just couldn’t quite get to it. Going back to school wasn’t in the foreseeable future and I was scared that my friends could forget about me.
I was right to be nervous. Less than 24 hours later I was packing my bags and back in London after a spike in my body temperature. The doctors told me I’d be back for two nights maximum which eventually turned into a further six weeks but I was relieved. I knew I was safe there and the people around me understood what I was going through. I didn’t have to worry about anything for those six weeks because I knew I was in the best place for me. Of course I was eventually getting fed up of being in hospital but part of me almost didn’t want to go home.
During those six weeks I faced all sorts of problems. I fought infections, spent countless sleepless nights screaming in pain and praying that I’d get better soon. I was fed up of being ‘different’ and although I was nearly two years into my journey it still hadn’t sunk in that I’d been diagnosed with this horrible illness.
When I was discharged from London for the second time I had to return to the hospital twice a week – on a Monday and Thursday – to meet with my consultant. Because I was unable to use public transport I had to endure long taxi journeys to London, often in rush hour, and a quick ten minute appointment could frequently create a ten hour day – majorly spent in the back of a car. It wasn’t for many months that my appointments were cut to weekly and then monthly but it felt great that eventually I had more time to start living my life.
In my next blog post I’ll discuss Christmas, my first holiday since being diagnosed and an amazing charity called Teens Unite.