Meet Simona, diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, aged 22

Meet Simona, diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, aged 22

My name is Simona, but my friends call me Sim Sim. 

I’m originally from Bulgaria. I moved to North London with my family in 2012, where I was living the life of a ‘normal’ 22-year-old. When I wasn’t out enjoying myself with my friends and family, I was studying and working. Then, last year, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. 

I started feeling unwell during the summer of 2018. It started with bruising I couldn’t explain, followed by uncontrollable itching all over my body. I knew there was something wrong, I just didn’t know what. 

My blood results were okay, and the doctors were saying there was no reason for concern. At one point, I even remember a doctor turning to my mum and saying she should be happy I didn’t have cancer. 

Last summer, I found a lump close to my collarbone, but I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t think it would be anything to worry about. 

In the end, it was only when I became extremely unwell that I felt I was taken seriously. In November 2019, I woke up one morning and I just couldn’t breathe. I was admitted to North Middlesex University Hospital and in the span of a few days, I had a biopsy done, multiple CT scans and MRI scan and countless blood tests. 

That was the first time I heard of my diagnosis. The doctors told me they suspected I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.   

I found it so hard to come to terms with. I knew something was wrong, but I never thought I had cancer. I live an open life on social media, but this was something I wasn’t ready to talk about straightaway. I knew I had a difficult road ahead of me and I just surrounded myself with my family and closest friends who were giving me the strength I needed to continue. 

Initially, I found it hard to come to terms with the changes I was about to go through as a result of my chemotherapy, like my hair falling out. 

I started my treatment in December 2019, then earlier this year, the country was hit with the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, so many cancer patients have been affected in so many ways from increased isolation to the treatment they receive. 

As a vulnerable person, I was advised to stay at home and I was getting excited to leave the house for a bit, even if that meant going to the hospital. 

My diagnosis and starting treatment gave me another focus, it really got me thinking about the most important things in life and throughout this journey I’ve had the support of Teens Unite. 

I met Debbie, the Co-Founder of Teens Unite on World Cancer Day. She was visiting the hospital whilst I was having my treatment and she was so lovely. We chatted away and she encouraged me to join Teens Unite and I was excited by the idea. 

Since signing up, I have taken part in yoga sessions, quiz nights and arts and crafts. I’ve even taken part in a magic show, which was amazing. Coronavirus hasn’t stopped Teens Unite from bringing young people fighting cancer together – we just do it virtually for now. 

There are so many young adults going through cancer, but meeting others in a similar situation has given me a feeling that we are all in this together. 

At the end of the day, you are not your diagnosis. Cancer is a chapter, not the whole book. And, if anything, you are the one who decides how much importance you want to pay to it. Seeing others go through it and meeting others who have already won their fight motivates you to continue fighting and be the one to inspire others who will go through this after you. 

Teens Unite is a charity so close to my heart and I even took part in the 2.6 challenge and raised £420 by setting myself the challenge of doing yoga every single day. I want to help make sure that no young person faces cancer alone.

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