Living with cancer by Bryony, 26


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

"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."