Amy’s story: New job, new flat, new life in London…all turned upside down by cancer

Amy was diagnosed with lymphoma at 23 years old, just after moving to London with her boyfriend and starting a new job as a dance teacher. For months, she had been suffering with itchy skin, tiredness and had bruises on her legs.  

Her mum pushed for her to see the doctors again and, because she had a persistent cough, they ordered an X-Ray. They found a mass. Amy was told she needed another scan and the results from this confirmed she had lymphoma and would need to start chemotherapy treatment. 

Amy was unable to claim for financial support so had to move back to her parents’ house, away from her new life in London. The travel costs soon racked up as Amy had to travel almost three hours each way for treatment. Her Young Lives vs Cancer Social Worker Mel supported her with things like financial grants and shopping vouchers to help with costs. 

Amy is sharing her story this Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Awareness Month to raise awareness of the unique experiences of young people with cancer and how Young Lives vs Cancer supports them. Young Lives vs Cancer Social Workers are there for every young person with cancer, to make sure they get the right care and support at the right time.  

Amy is standing against a red backdrop, she has her head shaved, make up on and a large necklace and earrings

Amy was diagnosed with lymphoma at 23 years old just after moving to London and starting a new job

I woke up and I had scratches on my skin, I’d been scratching myself in my sleep, I didn’t feel itchy at the time so just thought it was a bit strange. From then though my skin gradually got more and more sensitive, becoming increasingly itchy and uncomfortable. By December I had bruises on my legs from where I’d been scratching. By January I’d be coming home from work rushing to get back because I felt so uncomfortable. I was really sweaty as well – it would be cold outside, and I’d feel cold but I’d be really clammy and sweaty. My hands and feet particularly would get wet through.  

“By February I had a month at home with my Parents in Nottingham. We were trying to get to the bottom of what it might be. So we went to the GP and were referred to a dermatologist because it felt very skin related. By this point I was constantly tired, I wasn’t sleeping because it was so uncomfortable.  

“By April I came back down to London because I had to go back to work – but I wasn’t well and Mum said, ‘I’m coming down with you and we’re going to see the GP down there and we’re going to explain everything that has happened’.” 

Amy and her mum went to visit the GP in London. They said that her symptoms sounded like anxiety but as she had a cough that wasn’t going away, they would order an X-Ray. 

“Within an hour and a half, they called me saying they saw a mass and I needed to have a CT scan. I was booked in a few days later for this, and then on the Monday went back for the second pre booked appointment with the Doctor and then by that point they said from the ct scan and symptoms ‘we’re pretty certain it’s lymphoma’” 

Amy and her parents were given the news and told she would need to start chemotherapy treatment. 

“I remember asking ‘am I going to be ok?’ and I felt she was quite vague with her answer, Looking back, I think they have to be because they don’t know the extent of what it is at that point. I think my brain naturally went into fighter mode after this and I thought ‘this is going to be fine’ but it was just the shock of it.” 

Before treatment started, Amy went to St George’s hospital to have fertility treatment as there was a risk the chemo could affect her fertility. 

Amy later went on to have six cycles of chemotherapy treatment over six months. One side effect of the treatment was hair loss, which Amy decided to take control of herself by shaving it off to raise money for charity. 

“I managed to raise over £7,000 for the charity! – I think it really did take away the upset of it for me. Don’t get me wrong sometimes I do look into the mirror and think ‘oh my goodness you don’t have any hair’ but I haven’t got too upset over it because it turned into such a positive thing.” 

Amy was unable to work while on treatment, due to the risk of infection. As a self-employed dancer this meant she was unable to claim financial support and so had to move out of the flat with her boyfriend and back in with her parents.  

“I was advised not to work but it’s been quite tricky because I’m self-employed and it has been hard trying to claim any money from universal credit or employment support allowance… It’s ended up that I’ve had to move out and live with my Mum and Dad again and that way I can claim a tiny bit of universal credit.  

“I would love to be back at work more than anything, I’m so lucky I have a job I really enjoy. I would absolutely love to be back at work, it’s been so frustrating because this came at a time when everything felt like it was going in the right direction…. I guess everything was just going a bit too smoothly.” 

Amy is wearing a blue dress, the photo has been taken while she is in the middle of a dance

Amy was working as a dance teacher when she first got told the news she had cancer

Amy has had to move back in with her parents in Nottingham, almost three hours away from Royal Marsden hospital. When she has treatment, her and her parents travel down to London and stay in the flat with her boyfriend. 

Young Lives vs Cancer Social Worker Mel has supported Amy and her family throughout her treatment. 

“Mel’s so lovely she’s quite a bright character which is nice because sometimes things can be a bit scary so it’s lovely to have people who have got bubbly personalities around you. She sent me a message to introduce herself, and said ‘I’d like to meet you, are you about today?’ she came and met us and spoke to us about what our concerns were at the time. I think at the time we were struggling with the financial side of things, and she’s been so helpful with things like that. I remember her sorting me out with a food voucher because there have been times I have stayed at the flat and I used that.” 

Amy has now finished treatment and is keen to share her story to raise awareness of the unique challenges young people with cancer face. She has attended various meetings at Parliament to be a voice for young people with cancer. 

Author: Emma

Posted on Thursday 28 March 2024

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