Living with cancer by Bryony, 26

Bryony, 26, tells her real story of being diagnosed aged two and living with cancer up until the age of 17.

More bruises than normal

"My mum noticed that I had a lot of bruises, so she took me for a blood test, just to check everything was OK. The blood test results came back irregular and I was admitted to my local hospital overnight.

"The next day my parents took me up to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) it was a week before my third birthday when I was first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL)."

Treatment and transplant

"I received a course of chemotherapy after which I went into remission but a few months later I relapsed. I was found an unrelated donor from the Anthony Nolan bone marrow transplant list as none of my family members where a match. I had my transplant when I was six and spent weeks rebuilding my immune system before I could eventually go home."

Further setbacks

"Before I had my transplant I had to have a lower left lung lobectomy, as it had become so damaged from all of the pneumonia infections I had had during treatment.

"Two years after my transplant when I was eight, my optician said I was blind in my left eye. My mum was a bit shocked, as I hadn’t noticed. I was eventually diagnosed with an optic glioma. This was treated with six weeks of radiotherapy but left me partially blind.

"When I was nine, I discovered a lump in my salivary gland, which was diagnosed as an adenocarcinoma. This was surgically removed during a delicate operation at the ENT hospital in London."

What I liked about GOSH

"I loved arts and crafts. I loved creating something new and the play specialists were always great at finding me things to make. I also enjoyed watching films and listening to audio books.

"The hospital was really close to the British Museum, so when I was well enough to leave the ward we would sometimes go there."

Moving to a new hospital

A GOSH patient on holiday following her recovery from cancer.
"Eight years after my transplant, I relapsed for the third time with ALL at 14. I was devastated as I was finally back at school, and enjoying a social life.

"I was transferred to UCLH, onto a ward that had four rooms for teenagers. We were introduced to my oncologist, Dr Shankar, and got underway with the treatment. During my treatment an MRI scan revealed that I had an aspergillus infection in my brain, this had to be treated with a course of Voriconazole putting a stop to my chemotherapy until it was completely cleared up."

Missing home and school

"It was difficult being away from home all of the time. During my transplant I used to cry quite a lot because I missed home and being in isolation I wasn’t even allowed to leave my room. I also missed my cat. I kept begging my parents to bring him up to see me but it wasn’t allowed because of the infection risk.

"I missed out on a lot of school, and I struggled to catch up with my peers. I had to have private tutoring at home after my transplant and after my final relapse. I managed to catch up with all of my work but I felt very isolated and lonely at times. Closer to exams I went into school after hours and had some private sessions with my teachers. Even with all of the set backs, I pulled through my treatment and kept fighting to achieve my goals. I successfully finished my GCSEs and A levels and went on to university."

What helped me cope

"Getting out of the hospital whenever I felt well enough enabled me to clear my head. It was nice to have something to look forward to. My mum often took me to Regents Park, where I could sit in the rose gardens or by the lake reading a book. I found reading especially helpful, as it enabled me to escape to another world. Helping me to stay strong and keep positive, as I wanted to get through everything so I could start making my dreams a reality.

"It is now eight years since I finished my treatment! I've been living in London for the past two years and love it. I am not part of a special cancer survival group. We regularly meet up with each other and it is great to have the support and meet others who understand what you've been though."