Rian was first diagnosed with cancer at 14. Now in remission, he has recently joined Teens Unite. And he is sharing his mission to get young people, especially young men like him, to open up about their cancer experiences and to use them to empower them to live their best life:
“I find it funny how we create this idealistic world for ourselves. Guaranteeing to the younger generations what will happen, when it will happen and how it will happen. We paint the path of life for ourselves and others usually before they have even taken a step onto it. We allow little to no room for maneuverability, and even less room for stepping outside the preformed mold to do something fantastic with life.
Yet, it is so simple to do something fantastic, to step outside the mold. To give your life a bit of room to do its thing or do your thing. Though there appears to be a running trend for most extraordinary people within our world, one common mindset or realisation, and that is understanding what is at stake in our fragile lives.
I was diagnosed with AML (Leukemia) Cancer of the blood when I was 14 years old. I was admitted into hospital there and then and didn’t leave for 6 weeks. My life was picked up and dropped on a hard cold floor, way before I had even got going. I remember the emotions, anger, upset, confusion. Why me? Why has this happened to me? On admission I was heavily septic with an infection in my left leg. It was to the point that cancer was the ‘better option’. I had to undergo a few major surgeries to clear this before the climb to remission could be attempted. I’m fortunate, these went smoothly. I then underwent 6 months of intense chemotherapy, a journey I will happily share with you over on my social media accounts. I was rendered in remission. Freed into the world to live my life, to get on with it. To slot back into the mold and carry on.
But it wasn’t to be.
Nine months later I noticed something. I knew what I had acknowledged but I refused to accept it because accepting it meant it was real. I’ll come back to that word a bit later. Three months passed to the point I was unable to hide what I knew was happening, I had relapsed. Being told this bought a great sense of relief as odd as it sounds. I no longer had to battle with the demons in my head, I no longer had to live in fear, I had my relapse, I had my diagnosis. Now was time to plan my climb, back to life.
I was extremely fortunate once again, to receive an unrelated stem cell donation in the form of a bone marrow transplant aged 16. The 1st July 2015 should have been my prom, instead I spent the night dancing with new cells within my body.
I’ve skimmed over my ‘active cancer life’ massively. The story is there if you want to know it – just visit my Instagram @thelcard_rh – today I want to open up about post cancer life. Something we rarely mention that is equally as hard. Sometimes, at points, harder.
For six years I put cancer in a nice airtight container, padlocked it, threw that box to the back of my head, and threw the key away. Done and dusted I assumed. I deleted all photos of me bald off Instagram. Removed myself from the Facebook support groups and isolated myself away from the cancer world. I didn’t want anything to do with it. In my head I had served my time and it was time to paint a fresh canvas. I tried to get on with life. Six years is a long time to have a box closed, and if I’m honest, it only got louder the more I left it. Memories seeping out into different areas of my life to plague them and limit me. I saw cancer as a weakness, I saw it as something to limit my success, and because I wasn’t confronting it, it was doing exactly that. It was destroying my relationships, my work, my happiness. I’m not ashamed to admit at points I’d class myself as mildly depressed. I allowed my past to control my future. I let it eat away and feed off anything good that came into my life. When someone asked me if I had had cancer, I would respond as if I was admitting to doing something wrong in my past. Cancer was my enemy. My past was to be forgotten.
I think this is common for a few people. I was always told I won’t ‘deal’ with cancer psychologically until afterwards. And that word alone ‘deal’ places a negative connotation on it instantly. As if it is a chore, a burden, something I just need to deal with to get it out the way. You don’t deal with cancer, you live with it. Boys specifically are notorious for not opening up about their feelings. I slipped and do still at points slip into the category of bottling things up and throwing them away. I’m no scientist and I can’t give you a logical explanation to why talking helps, but I can give you the understanding that when you open up about your cancer, when you accept it happened, when you look at it logically, a weight will be lifted from you. A weight that you never knew was there.
I first did this on a podcast. I spoke through my whole three-year long journey, from diagnosis to relapse to transplant to mental health after cancer, I said everything. It took me an hour. But when I got home from that recording, I felt 10 stone lighter. Emotionally it drained me but I gave it a day or so and I was up with a spring in my step.
If you asked me this time last year to do that, to open up to that extent I wouldn’t have. It sounds cliché but doing so changed my life. I’m thankful I did.
My whole outlook on life has changed. I’m a thriver now, I chase my goals. I acknowledge I have had cancer, and I talk about it on my social media. I share my story with people on big platforms to motivate them in their own lives, I teach people the lessons cancer taught me. I understand the positive outlook on life it has given me, the ‘sod it’ mentality. The ability to know tomorrow isn’t guaranteed but today is and so today I will succeed.
It isn’t until opening up that I realised how much it was eating me up. I’d become incredibly unproductive, unhappy and unhealthy. I cruised through life, I didn’t care who I annoyed, upset or let down. This was all the box, the box in my head leaking out across my mindset. Affecting little areas of my life slowly. Dragging me down into a deep black hole.
You can get to where I currently am. You can understand and accept your cancer. You can use your cancer for good. You have been dealt a rough hand, and that does suck, but life is unpredictable and a cancer patient should know that better than anyone. The life experience that comes with cancer is like gold dust. Only those who have lived it have it. There are gifts from cancer, as odd as it sounds. These gifts should and will help you break the preset mold of life. They will have given you that understanding that you won’t be here forever, and whilst you are here you are absolutely going to do and take on everything you want to in life. You are going to succeed from it.
I want to help you talk, I want to hear your voice, I want to see that determined smile on your face as you take on your next challenge knowing you’ve swallowed tablets bigger than it. Cancer sucks, but the teaching and lessons that come with it are invaluable and very rare. If you ever want to hear or read my story, or speak to me, my DM is always open – then follow me on social media: TWITTER: @TheLCardRH / INSTAGRAM: @thelcard_rh / FACEBOOK: The L Card"
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Volunteering with Teens Unite has changed my personality and outlook on life. When I hear all the amazing things the teens say about Teens Unite, I can tell they mean every word.
Teens Unite isn't just a charity to me, it was the beginning of restarting my life.
When Elliot started receiving the support of Teens Unite, I could see a change in him straightaway. His outlook on life was becoming positive again and I gained strength from seeing my little boy accepting what had happened and starting to move forward.
I needed help and that's where Teens Unite came in. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and the reason I met Teens Unite was to save my life.
With Teens Unite, I finally realised that I could climb out of this massive hole that I had been digging because I wasn't alone anymore.
If it wasn't for Teens Unite, I wouldn't be where I am now. They have been really supportive and given me the strength to push myself and not give up.