Meet Kelsey, diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, aged 17

Meet Kelsey, diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, aged 17

From the age of seven I lived in Waltham Abbey in Essex with my mum and two younger sisters, travelling to and from Chelsea and Fulham where I originally grew up.

Since primary school, I've always had a passion for sport. Whether I was good at it or not, I just loved the loved the challenge and pushing myself until I eventually accomplished a goal.

At the age of 16, before my diagnosis, I started working in McDonald’s. I wanted to earn my own money so I could go out more, buy my own things and do what I loved, which was dancing. It also meant I could help to pay my mums rent as she was struggling at the time.

I then started working six days a week - I always had two or three jobs at a time and I was going to two dance classes a week, so I was always active.

At the age of 17, I found a small lump in my neck during a gymnastics class. It didn’t hurt, but it caught my attention. Over the next couple of months, it got bigger and started to cause a lot of pain. Doctors thought it was a cyst at first, so it was drained, only for it to come back a couple of months later even bigger and far more painful. I was in agony! I was at sixth form and still working too, so it was a tough time.

I had an operation on 17th August 2015, three days before my 18th Birthday. I was then diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, Stage Two.

I didn’t take in the news fully for a while and there was a lot more emotion around me than my own.

I went through six weeks of chemotherapy, which was unsuccessful, so this was followed by three and a half weeks of radiotherapy.

Treatment was tough. I felt physically run down after every chemo session and it would be two to three days before I would recover. I was still trying to dance and train while going to college, but I believe all of these activities helped me mentally as I was trying to get through the treatment. My mum still had to work through most of it, so I was facing it on my own and I needed to stay motivated.

Looking back at this time, going through treatment forced me to be strong for myself and I realised the importance of life and finding the fun and positive in everything.

I first heard about Teens Unite while I was in the Macmillan hospital having my treatment – my personal carer gave me a leaflet. Over the years, I’ve attended Halloween and Christmas parties, cookery days, sports sessions,  go karting, the Activity Stay and I’ve also been a part of some of the events Teens Unite organises for the young people and the supporters as a way of giving back. I’ve modelled in the fashion show, performed at the annual gala dinner and I’ve been a motivational speaker at Discover You.

The workshops and activities meant I could reunite with the friends I had made through Teens Unite and see other teens like me outside of my usual circle. It really helped to see other young people in my situation being positive and still enjoying their teenage years.

I am now a professional dancer as well as a personal trainer. I have performed on many stages since I finished treatment and it’s motivated me to just carry on and spread that energy. I’ve also modelled for brands such as McDonald’s, Nike, Puma and Paul Smith.

I am currently on a fitness mission and I’m in a place where I want to give back and help others. I hope to carry on teaching and it’s my ambition to perform my own work on bigger stages. 

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