Meet Olivia. Olivia is 22 and we tripped over each other on Instagram. (What did we ever do before IG?!) She is beautiful and she is strong. She was living her life like any other 21 year old should. And then the unthinkable happened…
Olivia was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma Last year.
Hodgkins Lymphoma can occur at any age but most predominantly between the ages of 15 and 34, or over 60.
Olivia was 2 days off her 22nd birthday when she was diagnosed.
In her own words, here is Olivia’s Story…
It all started when…
“I literally feel like I am living in a movie, this is the type of thing that I had never even contemplated happening to myself, but this is reality, this is a harsh world we live in and I had never even known it.
I went to my GP with complaints of chest pains when I drink alcohol, at first the doctor told me that this was down to anxiety, and that I had made it up in my head. I persisted and things got worse as well as the discovery of lumps in my neck. The next doctor suggested that I should get tested for Lymphoma as a precaution, just to rule it out. The words Lymphoma meant nothing to me, and I walked out of the doctors feeling relieved if anything with the idea I might have Lymphoma, it wasn’t until I got home and googled it that I realised this was actually cancer. (PANIC)!!!!
The following appointments bought us closer and closer to that diagnosis, and I realised it was actually happening, to ME. The weeks that followed were full of a LOT ‘whyyyy meee’ tears, I would fill my drive to work with plans of how I would tell my family the news and mostly worrying about how ugly I would look with no hair. The worst part about the diagnosis is how slow the process is, awaiting results and answers from doctors, and thinking how could you possibly be taking so long when you have thrown my life upside down like this, I just want an answer.
My first appointment at the oncology centre at the hospital after being referred by my GP really hit home. I didn’t even know what the word oncology meant until I arrived into the waiting room. Looking around at how unwell people were filled me with dread and I knew my mum felt the same, but we daren’t even think so negatively at this point. I underwent various tests and had an X-Ray at the hospital… After, I was assigned a (lovely) nurse and had a long chat with her, she reassured me of how great the hospital and doctors were, how she promised that they would make me better and that they deal with a lot of young people with cancer so I wasn’t to worry. This was when I realised that everything was becoming a reality, and they clearly knew I had it at this point but they weren’t able to give me an official diagnosis without carrying out a biopsy. This was my first surgery where I had a lymph node taken out of my neck under general anaesthetic. Two weeks later the results were completely as expected and I was diagnosed with stage 2A Hodgkins Lymphoma two days before my 22nd birthday! Happy fucking birthday…
The idea of this blog is not to pull on your heart strings, or to try and make out I am the only person fighting a battle like this, but to inform, update and help other people who might be going through the same sort of thing. I searched and searched for a blog which felt relatable to me…According to the Teenage Cancer Trust, six young people in the UK, aged between 13 and 24, are told they have cancer every day. (where the hell are you guys???). Sometimes its nice to read other people are feeling the same way you are, but since I haven’t been able to find anyone I can relate to, writing down my own feelings seems to be helping in other ways. To feel like I am getting something good out of a SHIT situation – to open peoples eyes, create awareness but also to document my battle, to remember I am a stronger person than I ever thought I could be. This is my 22nd year.”
I had no idea how much my life was just about to change for the good. I went through 6 gruelling months of chemo. I blogged my journey and posted on instagram daily, for me the most daunting thing was loosing my identity through chemo therapy. I didn’t want to become known as ‘the girl with cancer’.
Through the hundreds of young women reaching out to me via social media after the publicity of my blog and Instagram page, it became clear that young women battling cancer needed support when facing changes of their appearance. This daunting experience of cancer is often overlooked as one of the less important side effects but for many they noted it as the most daunting.
This is when I set up my support group called Cancer Chicks which aims to ensure women still feel confident and stylish whilst battling cancer, as well as offer a platform to visit to ask for advice and meet other young women fighting the same fight.
This, along with being a fashion influencer on social media has become my full time job. Its funny how things work out.
15 things I learnt along the way:
Often it is the deepest pain which empowers you to grow to your highest self.
Nothing is ever as good, or as bad, as it seems
Stop running from what you are. Every second spent chasing after other peoples lives is a waste of your own life.
There is only one you, and really thats your only strength. Make it the best version and you will attract what’s meant for you.
You don’t just wake up one day and find that everything has worked out. You must make a conscious effort to control the circumstances of each day.
Respect what your issues are teaching you
Stop aspiring to sit at the table where you have to repeatedly convince others why you deserve to be there. Build your own table.
Allow yourself to feel the fear bubbling beneath the surface, but never let it cripple you.
The less we rely on physical attributes to define us, the more empowered we become
Eat food, not too much. Mainly plants.
Loving yourself for something other than your appearance is much more fulfilling.
Being ignored is only teaching you how to live without him. You’re just adjusting.
Without darkness, what would light be?
Maybe life isn’t about avoiding the bruises. Maybe its about collecting the scars to prove we showed up for it.
There is no better reminder of what it means to be alive, to be removed from it, to get a birds eye view. Then to return and see everything different, but realise it is only you who has changed.
My instagram: @oliviarosesmithx
As well as writing her blog, Oivia documents her life on Instagram – here are some very personal posts that she wrote, whilst in the thick of it. You can click the image to read the post in full, if you want to.
What a girl. THANKYOU so much for your honesty, Olivia – if I could hug you I would.
Thankyou for popping by
Here are some links to websites that are safe, if you need advice – But remember – if you are worried – SEE YOUR DOCTOR xxx