Meet Zoe, 15, Ovarian Cancer

Meet Zoe, 15, Ovarian Cancer

Just over 6 years ago I embarked on what turned out to be the most difficult journey of my life. I was just 15 years old when I was rushed into hospital with a severe bloating, incontinence and stomach pains which resulted in an emergency operation the following day. The uncertainty of the events did not phase me at this stage, after all, I was a naïve, invincible 15-year-old. When I woke up from the operation I was told ‘You have cancer.’ Nothing can prepare you for that. From that moment my life changed. This took weeks to sink in. Subconsciously I made the decision not to tell anybody; not even my friends. This self-imposed isolation allowed me to reinforce my denial. I was on my own in this. I was the only young person I had ever heard of going through this nightmare. I had always thought cancer was something that happened to old people. I was fortunate enough to be given the ‘all clear’ after the first operation. I allowed myself a couple of months of recovery, and in this time began to accept and make sense of my situation. Slowly, I began to find my feet again. I started with applying for colleges and getting back-on-track with planning my potential future. I re-acquainted myself with ‘normal’ life and slowly came back to being an average 15-year-old.

In May 2016 my parents received a devastating call from my oncologist. They were then faced with the harrowing task of telling their teenage daughter the cancer had retuned. I still have no words to describe what it felt like receiving this awful news, and to see the pain I felt reflected back at me from the two people I love the most. In our desperation we clung to the surgeon’s optimistic words. I began reassuring myself that the only requirement for recovery was the removal of the tumour; a simple operation that I already knew I could handle. Although the surgery was a success, the biopsy revealed the cancer was aggressive. The word I had dreaded hearing throughout this whole endeavour were now said to me, ‘chemotherapy’. This one word scared me more than cancer itself. I knew this was a battle I couldn’t not face on my own and denial was no longer working for me. And so, the day after my 16th birthday, I begun the first of 3 courses of intensive chemotherapy. Chemotherapy was an incredible physical strain. And mentally I had lost all form of identity. I was a 16-year-old girl with no hair, continual sickness and dizziness; totally isolated and spending most of my time in a hospital ward feeling alone.

Thankfully, it was during this dark period that I was introduced to Teens Unite. I was still a (slightly) stubborn teenage girl. I continued to seize every opportunity of denial, so at first I was hesitant to respond to their invitations. I was scared and apprehensive of being part of an environment with fellow cancer patients. At last I finished the treatment, and whilst I was still undergoing the physical and emotional side effects, it couldn’t wait to abandon it all as soon as possible. I didn’t want to be part of the cancer ‘conversation.’ Despite my efforts, and with encouragement from my parents I attended one of their beauty days, and for the first time in over a year, I felt normal. This simple feeling is one that will never be taken for granted for those who have experienced the emotional backlog of cancer; normality. Teens Unite showed me that both me and my family were not alone in the trauma we had endured. For just over 5 years now, Teens Unite have offered me not only the chance to meet other individuals who have faced this awful disease, but they have also provided countless opportunities to build my life back together. I have gained vital work experience and ultimately regained my confidence back to even better than before my cancer experience.

The after effects of cancer are often overlooked, it is one of the most emotionally traumatic experiences a young person can go through. It can be terrifying; Going from the immense physical turmoil, yet highly safe and secure environment of treatment, to the desolate, confusing world of adjusting back to regular life. This is all part of the battle any cancer patient will have to face; made even more difficult because you are young and going through all the usual things young people do as well. Personally, cancer has been the hardest battle I could have ever imaged, and still to this day I am facing the aftermath of this trauma. However, this immense challenge has been made all the more manageable with this incredible charity by my side. I am overjoyed to say that I am now over half way through completing my Fashion Marketing BA degree at one of the top 10 fashion schools in the world; Westminster University. I could not have even dreamt of saying something like this 5 years ago. The future has never appeared more exciting and I am forever grateful to Teens Unite for helping me be feel able to embrace and enjoy it.

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