Posted on Wednesday 1 September 2021

Theo’s story: “I love baking – especially chocolate chip cookies. When I grow up I want to be a digital designer. I am more than my cancer.”

Theo, 12, from Hertfordshire was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in January 2020. Theo is sharing his story this Childhood Cancer Awareness Month to shine a light on what life has been like for a child with cancer. And why he is more than his cancer.

Hello people! My name is Theo I am 12 years old, the type of cancer I had was stage 2 Hodgkin lymphoma.

In November 2019, my mum took me to visit the GP a few times because I had a cough. I’d had it for at least a couple of months but apart from a few night sweats, I wasn’t feeling ill.

After five visits to the GP, one of them discovered a lump in my neck a few days before Christmas. He referred me to a paediatrician and a few days later he sent me for an ultrasound. On January 2nd, 2020, I had a biopsy under general anaesthetic and on the 8th, the doctor called my parents and told them that I had Hodgkin lymphoma.

My parents sat me down in the living room and told me. It was quite a shock. There were all these thoughts of cancer in my head.

"Something that scares me the most is the thought of ever having to go to hospital again."

I was treated at UCLH in London. I had lots of tests after I was diagnosed and scans. My treatment started pretty quickly and was very tiring.

I had to go back and forth to hospital and had a mixture of chemo with drips and pills.  There were lots of pills to take. Just before my third round, the children’s ward, where I was being treated was turned into a coronavirus ward due to the pandemic. My treatment continued in the Macmillan cancer centre.

Hospital was, OK. Yes, it is a hospital, I’m sure no one really wants to be there in the first place, but if you are there anyway, staff do take care of you and they are very supportive and when you’re at your worst they can really just give you that push to help you get back up again.

Chemo was pretty tiring. I had to go to hospital back and forth a lot and the drips and medication can make you very sleepy and unwell and headachey and not feeling your best. If anyone is feeling like that reading this, just know that it won’t last forever.

Luckily, my cancer responded well to treatment and I didn’t need radiotherapy. After four rounds of gruelling chemotherapy, two in lockdown, I was cured. I still have follow ups, but hopefully it will not return.

If I could change anything about any child having cancer it would definitely be for them to not really have any side effects of chemo and not have to attend chemo that much. Generally finding a cure so that children can still enjoy their lives and enjoy their life after.

My school were very supportive, both the staff and my friends. They even built a relaxing space for when I got tired. The hospital school were in close contact with my teachers and were really helpful with putting a smile on my face during my challenging period.

Our Young Lives vs Cancer social worker supported me and my mum during treatment, visiting us in hospital on the days I was in. They helped put a smile on my face.

"I want to raise awareness for Hodgkin Lymphoma. Both in GP’s and young people. I also want more young survivors to speak out about their experience."

More about me 

Although this is my story, I want to tell you about me too – because I am more than my cancer.

Some of my favourite things to do are baking – especially chocolate chip cookies – as well as going to the cinema with my friends and going out with them. I really, really do not like spicy food or chores.

I would describe myself as kind, outgoing, and very smiley.

A few things I like about being a child are not having to worry about anything, being supported by my parents and not being completely alone. Being a child means not have too much weight on your shoulders, to have a good start in life whilst still being able to enjoy yourself.

When I grow up I want to be a digital designer, to work on computers or maybe music. I have a lot of options and I’m really not sure which one I want to pick yet. The online world has always interested me, as well as graphics and logos which is why I am starting it now already.

"When I grow up I want to be a digital designer, to work on computers or maybe music. I have a lot of options and I’m really not sure which one I want to pick yet."

A lot of things are important to me. Whether that be a computer, a tablet or a gaming console, anything that can help distract me from the world and just help me relax and wind down can be very nice. I also like sweet foods.

If I had one wish it would be to end world hunger and illness so everyone can live a happy and healthy life. If I were Prime Minister for one day first of all I would attempt to sort this whole coronavirus situation out in my own way. Second of all I would try and make things better for more people. Help resolve rivalries that we have with other countries and establish good communications with everyone. So we can all help to build a great world.

Something that scares me the most is the thought of ever having to go to hospital again.

When I grow up, I am looking forward to being independent, being able to do what I want, not having to go to certain places and making my own choices about what to do.

I want to raise awareness for Hodgkin Lymphoma. Both in GP’s and young people. I also want more young survivors to speak out about their experience.

Get involved this Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Support children like Theo by getting involved this Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. From wearing a gold ribbon and raising awareness to taking on Challenge60, there are so many ways you can help Young Lives vs Cancer be there for children and young people living with cancer. Find out more about our campaign.

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