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Christmas, Covid and cancer: Amy’s story

For Amy and her boyfriend Jacob, going through a cancer diagnosis with no access to loved ones for support due to lockdown was a challenge like no other.

“The month between finding the lump in my neck and being diagnosed was almost impossible to cope with. Nothing was certain.

“I was supposed to be given my diagnosis face-to-face, however, on the day the doctor decided that it was best to tell me over the phone. This meant I was alone in my bedroom when I received the news.”

Being diagnosed with cancer is tough at any point in your life.

But for 21-year-old Amy and her boyfriend Jacob, going through a diagnosis with no access to close friends and family for support due to lockdown, the experience became a challenge like no other.

Originally from Warrington, Amy was in the final year of her Film Studies degree at Sheffield Hallam University when she found a lump in her neck on Christmas Day 2020.

Weeks later, after being diagnosed with Stage Four Hodgkin Lymphoma, Amy and her boyfriend Jacob were forced to reassess their lives as she started six months of chemotherapy.

“After the initial horror of the diagnosis, I felt a huge amount of relief when I finally had an answer,” said Amy.
“I knew what I had to do to get better. There are truly no words to describe chemotherapy, it affected me differently every single day.
“But you just have to put yourself in survival mode to pull yourself through it. I just thought of it as medicine and tried to focus on the fact that even though chemo made me feel awful, it was actually making me better.”

‘If you can be ill anywhere, be ill in Sheffield’

For Amy, her diagnosis demonstrated that sadly cancer can, and does, affect all ages and demographics. According to the most recent data available from Cancer Research UK, around 2,400 people aged 15-24 are diagnosed with cancer every year in the UK.

Locked down and forced to shield due to Covid-19, Amy and Jacob were in desperate need of support. Amy had left her job to start treatment; Jacob was shielding with Amy and unable to go to work, such was the health risk at the time.

Amy and Jacob were extremely worried by her diagnosis. But their immense strength and incredible maturity, coupled with priceless support from the likes of Weston Park Cancer Charity was key to making it through such a tough period in their lives.

“Technically, I was diagnosed twice,” said Amy.
“The first time was when the doctor told me that what I had was most likely Lymphoma, and that I should prepare for that news. The second time was the official diagnosis.
“I was by myself both times due to Covid-19 restrictions and I had to attend all of my appointments alone. When I received the official diagnosis, I was told the news over the phone.”

However, living in Sheffield meant that Amy not only had access to some of the best treatment and care in the country, she also benefitted from the support of Weston Park Cancer Charity.

A hardship grant helped give Amy and Jacob financial breathing space following Amy’s diagnosis, while they were both unable to work.

Amy said: “As we were in lockdown and I was extremely vulnerable, Jacob couldn’t work in case he contracted Covid, which caused financial problems.
“We received no help from the government and therefore had to rely on the help available from Weston Park Cancer Charity and Macmillan. However, these were never continuous payments, meaning we had no stable income.”

Though Amy was alone during her diagnosis, generous support for Weston Park Cancer Charity also enabled Amy to meet other young people in similar situations during her treatment.

Through café trips funded by the charity, Amy could speak with other young cancer patients during her treatment in a relaxed, safe, outdoor setting – crucial social interaction which was impossible during lockdown.

This gave Amy and other young people going through cancer a vital opportunity to discuss how they were feeling, face-to-face, in a safe environment – something which was almost impossible to come by in early 2021.

“Jacob was very pleased that I was given the opportunity as I'm a very social person,” said Amy.
“Lockdown prevented me from seeing my family and friends during such a pressing time. It also comforted him knowing that I could be around others who I would not feel uncomfortable around, as I knew that we were all in very similar situations.
“It was important to Jacob that we received as much support for myself as I possibly could, and we both made efforts to bring new people into our lives who were going to make a positive impact.
“From the moment I met Leah and Kayleigh (the friends I met through the café trips), my whole experience changed for the better as I had others who I could talk to without the worry of them not understanding me or my situation.”

Thankfully, Amy was recently given the all-clear and nearly a year on from her diagnosis, she and Jacob are now starting to pick their lives back up. Amy is back at work and graduated from university earlier this year, with Jacob able to also return to work after shielding ended and Amy had completed her treatment.

And above all else, Jacob’s support helped Amy through the toughest of years.

Amy said: “Being in lockdown meant that Jacob and I were left with only the two of us to deal with the diagnosis.
“Of course, my family came up from Warrington whenever they could, however for the majority of the time Jacob was the only person that I had to get me through it and care for me full time.
“We managed to remain calm on the surface as we had each other, even though our situation was dire, the fact I had Jacob made the whole thing bearable.”

Amy’s story is an example of why the help of Weston Park Cancer Charity’s supporters is so important to young people facing cancer this Christmas.

Thanks to the charity’s supporters, patients undergoing treatment during Covid-19 were not alone. However, we can only continue to improve treatment experiences for young cancer patients with your support.

You can leave your Christmas message in celebration, hope or remembrance online by clicking here.

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