Ms Elleby’s family gathered around her, their eyes filled with tears and tissues in hand. However, she surprised them by calmly stating, “I have cancer, don’t I?” She had already been doing research on wig companies and watching videos of people undergoing chemotherapy, so the news didn’t come as a complete shock. Despite her preparations, the experience was still overwhelming, and she had concerns about losing her hair.
Deciding to only share the news with her closest family and friends, Ms Elleby continued attending college. In February 2021, she began her chemotherapy sessions at The Royal Surrey County Hospital, carefully scheduling them around her classes. Her diagnosis was stage 4, which typically responds well to this treatment.
To cope with the hair loss, Ms Elleby shaved her head and wore a wig, pretending it was just a new haircut. She also wore long sleeves all the time to hide her picc line, a catheter used for chemotherapy. However, despite the medication, she still experienced a persistent cough and developed numbness in her arm and a lump on her collarbone.
After returning to her doctor and undergoing tests, Ms Elleby was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that originates in the white blood cells. Although she is currently cancer-free, she continues to undergo regular check-ups to monitor for any signs of recurrence.
During her chemotherapy, Ms Elleby faced challenges in explaining why she still wore long sleeves during the summer months. She had to take around 30 pills a day, and her bag would rattle whenever she set it down. She often worried about being mistaken for a drug dealer if she were stopped on a train.
Finally, on July 19, 2021, Ms Elleby completed her chemotherapy treatment, marking a significant milestone in her journey.Ms Elleby celebrated her 17th birthday by organizing a party and revealing to her friends that she had been undergoing cancer treatment. She made the announcement with a cake that said “F**k cancer” and shared that she had just finished chemotherapy, which surprised and moved her friends. After keeping her diagnosis a secret for a long time, it felt good for her to finally share it with others.
Unfortunately, just three months later, in October, Ms Elleby discovered another lump in her collarbone on her first day of a new job. She immediately knew that her cancer had returned, despite the disbelief of the hospital staff. This led her to undergo intense chemotherapy and spend more time in the hospital.
However, her consultant at The Royal Marsden informed her about a drug trial for teenagers aged 16 to 18, and Ms Elleby eagerly agreed to participate. She met the criteria for the trial and hoped that it would be successful. The initial scan showed positive results, but the second scan revealed that the tumor was growing back, forcing her to discontinue the trial and undergo chemo, immunotherapy, and a stem cell transplant.Ms Elleby, who is now 18 years old, has been cancer-free for two years since her diagnosis. To monitor her progress, she will undergo scans every three months for a year, followed by scans every six months for the next three years. Despite her experience with cancer, she has chosen to pursue a career in medicine at the University of Liverpool. However, she has decided to avoid specializing in oncology due to its personal significance and her desire to distance herself from cancer.
In addition to her studies, Ms Elleby is also supporting the Teenage Cancer Trust’s new campaign called “What not to say.” This campaign aims to raise awareness about the uncomfortable and insensitive things that people often say to young cancer patients. Ms Elleby, along with other young cancer survivors, will share their experiences to educate others about the impact of their words.
The article includes two images. The first image shows Ms Elleby, who is now cancer-free at 18 years old. The caption emphasizes her progress and the monitoring scans she will undergo. The second image is related to the Teenage Cancer Trust’s campaign, featuring Ms Elleby and highlighting the insensitive comments that cancer patients often receive.
Overall, the article highlights Ms Elleby’s journey as a cancer survivor, her decision to pursue medicine, and her involvement in raising awareness about the impact of words on cancer patients.Teenage Cancer Trust’s new ‘What not to say’ campaign, supported by Ms Elleby and other young people who have experienced cancer treatment, will be launched on November 8. The campaign aims to highlight the uncomfortable, bizarre, and insensitive things that people have said to them during their treatment.
According to Dr. Louise Soanes, chief nurse at Teenage Cancer Trust, while a cough and a change in voice were the first symptoms noticed by Ms Elleby, the most common sign of cancer is a lump in the neck, armpits, or groin. Other symptoms can include night sweats, high temperature, weight loss, fatigue, itchiness, coughing, breathlessness, and pain or vomiting after consuming alcohol. Dr. Soanes advises individuals to visit their GP if they have any concerns about their health and to persist in seeking medical attention if symptoms persist and they are not satisfied with the response they receive.
Ms Elleby has shared her personal experiences of insensitive comments during her cancer treatment, such as people asking to try on her wig or making comments about her weight fluctuations. As discussing cancer can be uncomfortable, Ms Elleby and others are also sharing tips on the Teenage Cancer Trust’s website about the most helpful things people can say or do to support someone going through treatment.
Ms Elleby expressed her gratitude for the exceptional clinical care she received at the Royal Marsden and Royal Surrey Hospital, which supported her mental and physical well-being and allowed her to continue her studies and reach her current position. She wants to assure anyone struggling with cancer, whether newly diagnosed or not, that there is hope and a bright future ahead.
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