Zoe's Story - The next chapter

Zoe's Story - The next chapter

When I last shared my story, I had just finished treatment and was waiting for a scan to confirm whether there was still any tumour left. I was fortunate to get the “all-clear” in September of 2017! I returned to school to continue my A-levels that I had put on hold whilst getting treatment. 

Going back to school was difficult. I was still struggling a lot with mental health issues and fatigue from the treatment, and I often got really frustrated at myself for not being like I “used to”. I felt like there was this pressure for me to be okay now that I had completed treatment, and that I should just return to how I was pre-cancer. It was also really daunting because I was joining the year below me to restart my A-level studies, and so I didn’t really know anyone in my classes or have any friends. Cancer dealt a blow to my confidence, and I found myself withdrawing from a lot of social interactions.

I’m grateful to say that I don’t have any physical long-lasting effects from my cancer or treatment, I’m physically fit and healthy. However, there have been mental long-lasting effects from the things that I went through, and to help with this I was prescribed medication. I used to feel ashamed about being on antidepressants, but nowadays nowadays I’m a real advocate for speaking out about mental health and destigmatising mental illness in general.

Anyone who has had a major illness like cancer will tell you how much it impacts your life, and it was tough having to deal with emotions like grief and depression at such a young age. In saying that, I think I also try to be more understanding now of other people even if we don’t have any shared experiences. You never know what someone has gone through, and so it’s important to be kind to each other.

Since the end of treatment, I have gone on to study chemistry at university. I’m now 22 and am due to graduate later this year! I’m not too sure what the future holds for me yet, but I’m looking into art conversation courses to seek out my passion for history and art. I’ve changed my mind on what “dream career” I want to pursue so many times now, but I’ve also learned to accept that my life is a flowing river that can change its course. I’m also happy to say that I’ve regained a lot of my confidence and that wouldn’t be possible without my family and friends who have supported me throughout this time, especially my mum and sibling who have been by my side for each step of the way. These past few years have been a journey of self-discovery and acceptance, and I’m proud of who I am today.

My advice to young people who are currently undergoing treatment: I know that treatment can be a very isolating experience, but just know that there are people who have gone through what you’re going through now and understand what it can be like. Teens Unite helped me meet a lot of other young people who were undergoing treatment the same time I was, and I’m so happy I took up those opportunities because it helped me feel like I wasn’t alone in this world. 

My advice to young people who are post-treatment: Please be patient and kind to yourself, especially when you’re finding things difficult. Things might not return “back to normal” and that’s okay! What is normal anyway? Also, just because you’ve finished treatment, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still reach out to others for help. You’ve already been through so much, and there’s no shame in telling others that you’re still not doing okay. I know I wasn’t doing okay when I finished treatment, and we all deserve a helping hand when we’re finding things tough. 

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