Meet Mikhaila, diagnosed with Malignant Melanoma, aged 19

Meet Mikhaila, diagnosed with Malignant Melanoma, aged 19

I was 19 years old and had just started year 13, my final year of A levels, when I was diagnosed with Malignant Melanoma.

My diagnosis changed everything - every single aspect of my life was suddenly thrown into the air. Suddenly all my future plans for university were put on hold because I was missing so much school due to surgeries, appointments and just general bad days where I couldn't face going in.

My social life suffered as I became anxious about going out with friends and acting like everything was normal when it wasn't. It pretty much came to a halt altogether when I was recovering from surgeries.

I became very isolated; your world truly does come crumbling down and life stops completely.

The biggest struggles initially are just wrapping your head around what it all means- associating the word 'cancer' with yourself, when you're used to only ever hearing it associated with other people. You never think it will happen to you, not at such a young age anyway, so when it does it just doesn't seem real at first.

The emotional and mental strain is the most challenging, because even when you're physically 'clear' and in remission, that doesn't mean you're magically fine again. The adjustment to remission was the hardest bit for me- one minute you're ill and the next you're not. People assume that the 'all clear' means life goes back to normal, and they start treating you as if it has, when actually your sense of 'normal' has completely changed. Now you're a cancer 'survivor' and your world is filled with check-ups, post-treatment side effects, fatigue, scan anxiety, relapse fears and much more.

I've thankfully been in remission for four years. Teens Unite have supported me in so many ways- I don't think I'd have been able to cope with the struggles that come with remission without Teens Unite. They provide a sense of community, endless opportunities, and the comfort in knowing I always have exciting things to look forward to.

I always say that you need to find the silver linings in bad situations, situations like a cancer diagnosis. Teens Unite are definitely my silver lining- I've met some of my best friends through the charity, and bonding with others through events has given me a tight knit support group that I so badly needed, full of friends that I can turn to about absolutely anything. When it comes to cancer worries, they all understand. I can't always speak to other close friends about cancer related issues because, as much as they try to be supportive, they just don't get it like those at Teens Unite do.

I've been given opportunities through Teens Unite that I definitely wouldn't have otherwise had, and I've done things I'd never have dreamed of doing before I got cancer; such as cycling through Vietnam to Cambodia...or hosting a fundraising ball!

I feel incredibly honoured to be given the chance to host the 2019 Strictly Ball for Teens Unite. I love any opportunity to get involved with the charity, in ways that allow me to express to others how incredible the charity is and how the work that they do so greatly impacts the lives of young people who so desperately need support.

I'm so passionate about spreading awareness for the charity, and showing my gratitude towards them for what they've done and continue to do for me, and many others. Nights like the Strictly Ball are a chance to showcase the positive impact Teens Unite have, and an opportunity for others to take part in an incredible evening whilst having fun and raising money in the process. It represents the best of what Teens Unite do- organising events and opportunities for young people to simply have fun!

I am proud to say that I have now graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London with a first class degree in Philosophy and I was awarded an academic prize for the Top Performing Philosophy Student. The next step is to find a job now that I have graduated. At the moment, I'm not exactly sure what I want that to be, but there was a time when I thought cancer would never let me get to this point. 

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