Interviewee Dave, an accounting and finance student from the University of Gloucestershire, shares his experiences of a childhood with cancer and how it has made him the wonderful person he is today.
Name: David Sargeant
Type of cancer: Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
Date of diagnosis: 9/04/2004
Date of all clear: 24/09/2004
Age when undergoing treatment: 13
What were your symptoms?
I don’t think I showed any of the typical ones. They found it because I was clinically anorexic, very weak and was never hungry, causing my parents to first take me to hospital. We later found out it was because a tumor was pushing against my stomach. When I was at the hospital they did a routine blood test and found a high white blood cell count, which meant my body was fighting something, the doctors were just trying to figure out what. It all started from there really.
How did you feel when you found out?
It didn’t feel real at first, I couldn’t comprehend it was happening to me, it felt like I was having a nightmare. Its something I’d heard about but never actually known of anyone around me having. It really started to set in when mum started crying as she told me, with a fearful expression on her face, that’s when I realised that it was something serious, which then made me fear the absolute worst. Mostly because I could tell that she was.
How did being so young at the time of treatment affect you?
It made me feel horribly different at an age when all I really wanted to do was fit in. I couldn’t do things that everyone else was doing as my immune system was so weak. I also had to stop playing football because of the port in my chest, which was difficult as my life pretty much revolved around it at that point.
How did your friends react to it?
I didn’t tell many of them, those who did know all just seemed scared and sorry for me. It was hard as every time somebody found out, the real question they all wanted to ask was “are you going to die?” So I didn’t really tell anybody myself, it lead to questions I didn’t want to answer or didn’t know the answers to.
How did you feel when you were given the all clear?
Relief, mostly for my parents. It felt like I had fought it physically but they had emotionally. It was amazing knowing that they didn’t need to worry anymore, I was very aware of how they had completely put their lives on hold for me. I felt guilty for needing so much of their help when I should have been getting more independent. I was happy they could be who they were again and stop feeling that they needed to put me before themselves.
What is your fondest memory of that feeling?
Realising that I was no longer a cancer patient, and seeing the smile on my parents’ faces. It was the end of a long battle, which we had won and fought together.
How was/is your after care?
Check ups, which are now every 3 years. They made me nervous at first, as it could have been it starting all over again if I had a relapse. Now, they are just part of my routine and a part of my life.
How has it affected your life as you know it now?
It makes me worry that I will run out of time, which can be positive or negative. In school I was always asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. At one point I thought I wouldn’t so I panic whenever I look too far ahead and think assuming you’ll be here for years and years to come is naïve.
Has it changed your out look on life?
Makes me not want to waste it, but it also made me realise that simple things in life like family and friends are the most important.
What would be your main piece of advice for children going through what you went though?
Stay positive, and do whatever you feel is best for you. People will have opinions as to what you should do but only you know how you and your body feel.
What are your goals and aspirations for the future?
Just to make my life count, it quite easily could have been taken from me. So I want to see the world, experience different cultures, be successful in my chosen career and if possible have a family. Basically, fit as much as I can in whatever time I am given and make it count.