Cancer, those are the words you never want to hear, let alone at 12 years old. I had my whole life ahead of me until I was stopped in my tracks on October of 2010. It was all started when they discovered a large golf ball sized lump on my neck, I never thought anything of it because I was naive and thought it could never be anything serious. It was life threatening. My doctor took one look at it and sent me straight to the nearest hospital. When I arrived a swarm of doctors surrounded me and it was the start of my nightmare; I was having blood tests and being prodded with countless needles as well as a large variety of different scans on all different parts of my body, not just my neck. It was then that I started to worry - why all this fuss for a small lump? Why so many doctors? Well now I know why, its because cancer had engulfed my body. I was sent to the Royal Marsden the following day for further tests and that's where they found it had already spread to stage three. It was then that I was officially diagnosed with stage three Hodgkins Lymphoma.
I immediately began four rounds of intensive chemotherapy and had two surgeries. Chemo destroyed me; I was exhausted, nauseous and I felt truly broken. The medication was tearing my body apart but I knew I needed to have it if I wanted a chance to stop the cancer. It was one of the most terrifying times of my life but the staff and family supported me every step of the way. I had been put onto steroids as part of my medication which made me gain a large amount of weight very quickly. I couldn’t control my hunger and I was gaining weight so rapidly my whole body was covered in stretch marks, at the young age of 12. This is when I started to feel very self conscious about my weight, I hated what I saw in the mirror and would cry every time I saw my reflection, I just couldn’t believe what was happening to my body and it was all out of my control. I was determined that when I was well enough I would try to loose weight and get healthy.
I didn’t realise how long it would be until that could happen because, as a result of the chemotherapy, I was left in a wheelchair and on crutches for six years. I was left with bone damage in my knees and a possible knee replacement on the cards. I also had nerve damage in my lower limbs which left me in an incredible amount of pain. This only added to my weight gain and once it got to the point I was well enough to start exercising and loosing weight I took it too far. I started restricting and excessively exercising to the point where I lost so much weight I was a skeleton of my old self. I lost a sense of who I was, there was no escape and I was trapped In a downwards spiral.
In April of 2018, I was admitted as an inpatient on an eating disorder ward and diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. I was so frail and weak. I had lost my direction and this was the beginning of a two year long battle in and out of eating disorder units. I spent three months as an inpatient at Springfield Hospital in Tooting, this was the first of three admissions there. I reached a point where I was so unwell I was put onto a feeding tube to give me my nutrition because my body was shutting down. I was also pacing up and down my hospital room and I even walked 26miles in one day. I was addicted to exercise and I was out of control.
I didn’t see what others saw when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see a frail weak girl yet I saw someone who was much bigger and unhappy. I was in and out three times before I was moved to a different unit called the Bethlem Royal hospital. During this time I felt into a dark spot, turning to abusing laxatives as a form to loose weight.
It got so severe that I took 101 tablets in one night, I vividly remember downing them with a glass of water and falling asleep not realising the nightmare I would wake up too. My pulse was sky high and my blood pressure dangerously low, I fainted every time I stood up and I was rushed to the general hospital close by. My veins had collapsed and I later got a blood clot in my IV line. This was the lowest point I have ever reached. I was lying to everyone around me and I never admitted what had really happened.
It was in that two week hospital admission that I made one final promise, a promise that I would never touch laxatives again and I would start recovering. I can now hand on my heart say that was the last time I went near laxatives and I did start to recover. During this time I was fighting for funding to move to an eating disorder unit down in Ipswich but I thought I had blown the best opportunity I ever had but they told me in November that I would be moving, I got the funding! I was moving to the best place possible for me, I knew when I got that news that there was no going back and I now needed to use this as a fresh start and it was the best thing that has ever happened to me. On the 6th of January 2020 I moved down to Ipswich, two hours from home. It was a scary transition but one that I knew was for the best.
I am still currently an inpatient and I have been here for three months, I have been in recovery and fighting for a new life everyday. I started volunteering and I was even accepted for college. Never thought would happen again. Looking back and thinking there was a time where I was not able to eat and getting all of my nutrition through a feeding tube and feeling the most depressed I have ever felt is so strange to me. I know I have a long way to go and I will not stop fighting until I am healthy and completely happy again but I am getting there, one step at a time. I recently started my Youtube channel to try and spread awareness for cancer and mental health including eating disorders. I'm doing it all from the inpatient unit I am currently at. I never thought I would be brave enough to tell my story and face the camera again but it is the best decision I have ever made. I am contesting with others and finding myself again, I no longer feel as lost and I feel like I have a sense of purpose.
Cancer nearly took my life but it didn’t, Anorexia nearly took my life but it didn’t. I have a third opportunity to live my healthiest and best life possible so I will not take any moment for granted ever again. I wouldn’t be here without the staff at the Royal Marsden and my family and friends. I owe them all my life and I am eternally grateful. Always remember you are never alone. We can beat this together.
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