Meet Eilidh, diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, aged 14 and Thyroid cancer, aged 17

Meet Eilidh, diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, aged 14 and Thyroid cancer, aged 17

I was your pretty average teen. I was quiet and always kept my head down. I worked hard with my studies in school and enjoyed learning new things. I was extremely expressive and enjoyed putting my creativity and imagination into any work that I could. I had no idea where my future was going to take me, and I could never settle on what felt right. I struggled with understanding myself and where I wanted to go.

Then, out of my control, my life course shifted off track and at age 14 everything came tumbling down around me. I was admitted to the cancer ward at Glasgow Royal Hospital for Children in 2016.

Shortly after being admitted, my Mum was given the devastating diagnosis that I had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. My reaction was this cannot be correct! When my mum and consultant broke the news to me so many emotions raced through my body. He was wrong. It is not true. I am fine. The most prominent emotion I displayed was anger, especially towards my consultant as he was the barer of the bad news. I could not even bare to speak to him as I felt he had ruined my life by diagnosing me. My body and mind shut down. I went into denial about what was actually going on around me.

I started four weeks of intense chemotherapy. By this point I understood I was unwell and that I had a long road ahead of me, but still never wanted to admit that I was a cancer kid. I was so determined to be normal and stay… Eilidh. I refused to associate with other teenagers who had cancer as I believed I was not one of them. I stopped brushing and washing my hair, hoping that this would stop me from losing more than I already had. I didn’t want to become the image of cancer.  

No one could prepare my family and I for what was about to come next in my journey. I had an extremely negative reaction to the intense chemotherapy and was transferred to Intensive Care, where I was placed in an induced coma. I was getting closer and closer to deaths door. Cancer soon became the easy battle and ironically, in the short term, forgotten about. 

After a long and painful fight my body was on the mend. The cancer at this point was treated with maintenance chemotherapy pills, meaning I could slowly return to my normal life. However, my life was not normal or what I knew as normal and was never going to be normal again. I returned home after spending a total of 338 days in hospital, and tried to jump back into my old life, but I could not as I was different. Firstly, the cancer and secondly the wheelchair. People had their opinions; some turned their backs on me and others were over the top with sympathy. Both reactions were hard to digest as underneath these HUGE labels I was still… Eilidh. 

Fast forward to 2019 and I attended an appointment at the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow at the ear, nose, and throat clinic. My Mum and I were taken in to see the consultant and his first words to me were “so the Thyroid Cancer…”.

I could not believe it. At 17 years old I had not one but two cancers?! I was nearing the end of my leukaemia battle; how could this be happening again? It felt as if I was a dice roll away to getting to the finish line but now I was back to square one, having to do it all again. I completed my leukaemia treatment and I went into hospital to have both my thyroid and the thyroid cancer removed. 

Cancer has changed my life, in good ways and bad. I have a new perspective on life and am so much more grateful for everything around me, but I have also been left with both physical and mental scars. About a month after finishing treatment, my mental health took a turn for the worse. Everyone classed me as ‘cured’ because the cancer was not running through my veins but mentally cancer was still controlling me. I forgot who Eilidh was as I was so used to being connected with cancer. I had to go on a journey of rediscovery and learn who I was without cancer. At present, I have decided to leave the door to my cancer life ajar, allowing me to pop back and remember the moments I want, but never staying. 

I always wanted to be a teacher when I was younger, but I was so shy, I thought there was no way I could teach a class by myself. When going into remission, I gained a new outlook on myself and realised I do have a voice and teaching felt like my calling. Now I am a qualified Early Years Practitioner specialising in working with children who have additional support needs.

I discovered Teens Unite on Instagram. I began sharing more parts of my story online and connecting with the communities I am a part of. I found Teens Unite and started messaging them immediately. Next thing I knew I was registered with them and received a lovely welcome package.

Even though Teens Unite is based in England and I live in Scotland, this did not stop me from reaching out and connecting with other teens registered with them. We have all experienced cancer and understand each other more than anyone else.  

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