Meet Crystal, diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, aged 18

Meet Crystal, diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, aged 18

Hi, I’m Crystal. Four years ago, I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in my upper jaw. Here’s my story.

I loved to act – I was an energetic, fearless and confident performer. Ever since I was a little girl, I found such joy in putting on performances for my family. I enjoyed it so much that I became serious about turning it into a career.

Like many teenage girls, I wanted to alter certain aspects of my appearance to be more like the models I idolised, but I was happy with the person I was and that was enough for me.

I had it all planned out. I was going to complete my acting course at college, go to university or drama school, win some acting roles and wake up every morning doing a job that I loved. I worked hard to try and achieve that dream. I thought nothing could stop me and I had all the time in the world to get there.

It was in February 2016 when my older sister noticed my gum underneath my lip looked swollen. She lifted my lip and there was a small bump. I made an appointment with my dentist and doctor and after an x-ray, biopsy and a small operation, my consultant broke the news that I had bone cancer in my face.

I was devastated. I thought “What have I done to deserve this?”.

Life felt so unfair. I thought I wouldn’t be able to act again, which left me heartbroken. It felt like there was a giant hole underneath my feet and all my hopes and dreams for the future were being sucked inside.

What came next was six rounds of chemotherapy, numerous infections and utter exhaustion. Treatment was so hard, and I felt so isolated because I was the only person on the ward with a facial tumour.

The chemotherapy was having a positive effect and day by day the tumour was getting smaller. I could finally start smiling again and I was getting back to my old self.

However, this happiness was short lived. There were parts of the tumour the chemotherapy couldn’t reach, so I needed an operation to remove the rest. This was the toughest, hardest and most upsetting thing I have ever been through.

Following the operation, I had to do a lot of emotional healing and finding gratitude for my health, friends, family and the fact that I could still speak, sing and see helped my recovery.

Cancer has changed the person I am. I will never get back to the old Crystal, but I have evolved into a stronger, self-assured and compassionate person because of it and I hope my story inspires others to feel the same. 

Following my operation, I stayed at Pauls House in London, which is a home away from home for cancer patients needing treatment far away from where they live. I saw a Teens Unite leaflet on the table. The smiling faces and the list of activities caught my eye. I promised myself that I would sign up once I had healed and I did.

My first Teens Unite session was a beauty day. I went with a friend and had so much fun. I had never been fed so much delicious food and pampered so much in one day! It was wonderful. 

I then went on Teens Unite’s Activity Stay, which has been one of the best experiences of my life. It was the first time since my operation that I connected with a large group of people who were of a similar age to me.

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Teens Unite have been providing plenty of online opportunities to stay connected with others in a similar situation. I’ve been doing yoga, craft activities, karaoke, photography, bingo and quiz nights. This has brought me even closer to the charity and I’ve made more friends as a result.

The online sessions have saved my life. I now feel free to be myself, joke around and learn new and exciting things whilst meeting awesome people every day. I can chat to the Teens Unite team about anything and the constant support and care for my wellbeing is amazing. I'm very grateful.

Teens Unite treat me with love, kindness and respect. They never ask what happened to my face, and I always feel welcome.

What I have been through, the challenges I’ve faced, the positives I’ve found and the support of charities like Teens Unite have helped me become the Crystal I am today.

I hope that by sharing my story, it reassures others that whether cancer leaves a visible or hidden scar, there are always people to help you get back up.  

(Photo copyright Sophie Mayanne)

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