Dear the non-cancer patients of this world,
There are some things that I need to get off my chest. Before I start I need you to understand that I am in no way trying to undermine the support that I have had from the vast majority of you during this roller coaster journey. Nor am I trying to offend those of you who may feel like you tried to help and support me, but felt as though I didn't appreciate it, because believe me, the support I had was invaluable.
What would I tell all of you if I had one chance? I'd tell you that given the opportunity, I'd swap your immune system for mine in a heartbeat. Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of my body and everything it has been through, but it would be nice if my biggest concern about going out in certain environments was that I could catch a cold or a naff virus that wouldn't leave me bed-ridden for weeks.
I'd tell you that once I'm on the other side of this cancer journey and getting better, I can't be expected to be the same person I was before the bombshell dropped. In many respects I will come out bolder and stronger, but in many others I will be weakened. My body is weak, my mind is in a whole new battle with itself and I'm struggling to re-adapt to society.
I'd ask you to let me experience real emotions. Even though cancer and its treatments can sometimes influence my outlook, I still have normal moods and feelings in regards to life outside of hospital and cancer. If I'm angry or upset, accept that something made me mad and don't write it off as the disease. I need to experience and express real emotions and not have them belittled or brushed off. I'd also ask for forgiveness; There will be times when the illness and its treatment make me "not myself." I may be forgetful, abrupt or hurtful. None of this is deliberate and hurting or upsetting any of you is the last thing I'd ever want to do. Please don't take it personally, and please forgive me. You need to understand that this doesn't mean I don't love, appreciate or cherish you, because believe me, I do.
I'd tell you that you don't understand. And you never could unless you had gone through it yourself. And I don't mean this as a bad thing, because I'm so thankful that you don't, and I always will be.
I would also tell you that I need you to look after my family as much as you look after me. If, God forbid, the worst happens, they're the ones left behind, and they will need you all more than ever before.
I would ask you all to treasure your loved ones. Life can change in an instant, and far too often in this world, people wait for tragedy to strike to understand what is important. Hug your loved ones tight and make sure they know how much you love them. Treasure every smile that spreads across their face and every laugh that breaks free from their lungs. Those are the moments you can never get back.
I'd plead with all of you to take nothing for granted, particularly your health. Please make sure you go for regular check-ups and screenings. I appreciate going to the GP is often an uncomfortable experience for many, but it's much less uncomfortable than having to break bad news to your loved ones.
I'd tell you that I need you to treat me as a person, and not a patient. I appreciate it when you text/ring me and ask me if I want to do something...While I may not always be able to, I like that you thought of me. I need a healthy balance between you talking to me and giving me space, and although it may take a while to find this balance, I trust that we will.
While I cannot be thankful for my cancer in most respects, we need to be grateful for my doctors and treatments for giving me the chance to fight this illness. And if there ever comes a time when the treatments no longer work, I need you all to know that I will always be grateful for having lived my life with you in it. And I hope you feel the same about me.
All my love and more,
A teenage cancer patient x
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