Connor’s Story: Support from online gaming communities

Connor was coming towards the end of his first year of university when he started having trouble with a sore throat. After a few weeks, his tonsil became swollen and painful. When he went home for the summer, he went to the doctors who thought he had tonsillitis and gave him antibiotics, but it didn’t get any better. 

The pain got to a point where he couldn’t deal with it any longer and eventually Connor was referred to Derriford Hospital. After several tests and a biopsy doctors diagnosed him with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.  He was shocked and wasn’t sure what to do.  

Connor Shellis was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma after his first year of university.

Connor said: “When they first told me I just laughed to myself like this isn’t happening. I had so many questions like what the hell? What is happening? We eventually went into a separate room and I burst out crying.  

“Mum was with me when I found out, she was distressed and had a lot of questions. She was very sad and didn’t know how to help me. My dad was home and he didn’t know how to help either.” 

Connor started a programme of intense chemotherapy which meant at times he was on the ward for five days at a time with 24-hour chemotherapy.  As his condition improved this was scaled down and followed by scans to check the progress of the disease and in April 2019, he had his last scan.  

After Connor’s treatment had ended, he struggled mentally with the after-effects. 

“I found the end of treatment was actually the hardest bit. When you are on treatment everything was structured and timed. You’re kept busy and you don’t have time to think but then when you finish it’s just like that’s it – what do I do now? I had so much time for myself, I was frozen in fear – I can’t move on because what if something happens but if I don’t move on I’ll be a mess.” 

During his treatment and after he finished, Connor received support from Young Lives vs Cancer but he also found that gaming became a valuable source of support and an escape for him. 

Connor joined a few gaming communities online and made friends all over the world, taking part in online tournaments playing games like Overwatch and Rainbow Six Siege.   

“Meeting new people online was great because it gave me something to escape to. I wanted to feel normal. Everywhere else it was clear I was ill because I looked ill. The other gamers didn’t know anything about my cancer, and I didn’t have to talk or think about it. 

“I became a lot closer to my gaming friends when I got back to a normal life. Last year, in March 2018 – I visited Copenhagen and the Netherlands to meet them in person. Eventually I told them about what I’d been through and they were wonderful about it. 

“My online friends now say they wished they’d known and wanted to help but them not knowing was actually a big help. They were supporting me without even realising it.” 

 Connor is now back in university for his second year, pursuing a degree in Game Technology.  

Connor is sharing his story as part of Young Lives vs Cancer’s Player vs Cancer campaign. To find out more click here. 

Author: Suzi Neill

Posted on Thursday 10 October 2019

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