Guest Blog Post: Mollie Mulheron ‘Live, Laugh, Lymphoma’ A Young Person’s Guide To Giving Cancer The Middle Finger
Hi there, my name is Mollie and I have just turned 25. Up until February this year I was living in the Galapagos islands teaching English. I moved out there after finishing my PGCE in teaching languages. I had an itch I couldn’t scratch so spent the last penny to my name on the flight! I made the terrifying decision to leave the stability, relationship, house and life I’d build in the UK and start all over again. I can single-handedly say it was the best thing I have ever done and I am beyond proud of myself for having the courage to do it.
My only regret would be not coming home earlier but when doctors are telling you you are fine, you trust them, because they’re the professionals and ultimately you want to be fine. Whilst I was out there, I had a few bad health symptoms, but doctors brushed it off. I came home to visit family and within 12 hours of getting off the plane collapsed. I was then diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. (Diffuse Large B Cell Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma). I went from living my best life on an island paradise to a living nightmare spending 125 days in hospital since February. Having cancer as a young adult feels like the whole world is moving on without you, everyday I’d open social media and it would be ‘I’m engaged’, ‘I just bought my first home’ and me, I was just trying not to die.
When you ask the doctor if you’re going to die, you expect their response to be along the lines of laughing and saying no that’s not the plan. But when I asked them, their response was that they couldn’t say yes or no. My main response wasn’t sadness, it was just utter shock because it felt so WRONG and unfair. And it just felt like no that’s not how it’s meant to be, I’m meant to be here, I can’t die, what? I screamed and cried about how I had so much left to do, I wanted babies and marriage and I wasn’t even nearly done yet with this world, I hadn’t even begun. But yeah, I thought that was it for me, when you’re told you have a tumour the size of a melon engulfing your heart, that to me was pretty much a certain death sentence.
It might seem like I’ve been strong on the outside, but on the inside I’ve felt like a terrified little girl. I’ve just become so independent that I am good at putting on a brave face and dealing with stuff myself. This past 6 months have been utterly horrific, and I wouldn’t wish what I’ve been through on my worst enemy. Aside from the physical part of cancer, the mental aspect is just as, if not more, challenging. Whilst everyone else’s life goes on, yours stands still. I’ve had no immune system for the majority of the past few months which means I can’t leave the house. Now some said ‘oh you lucky thing, you can watch Netflix all day’. That is my worst nightmare. I HATE being sat doing nothing. I need a purpose, a goal, to be always working towards something.
The hardest part though is when you don’t recognise yourself anymore. When you have had so much trauma thrown at you, that you feel like a shell of a person. A robot. The only way to describe it is it literally feels like the worst heartbreak you’ll ever go through, to grieve your old self is not something you should ever have to do unwillingly. And again, some people would say ‘oh you can reinvent yourself and start again’, I didn’t want to, I liked the old me. It had taken me 24 years to build her up to where I wanted her. I’d spent years getting my hair perfect, it was part of my identity, I still cry everyday about this. Honestly looking at myself in a mirror makes me feel sick with sadness still because it’s not myself looking back at me.
I found this extremely difficult as I have always been a go getter. Lying in a hospital bed with no purpose was almost harder mentally than the treatment itself. Therefore, I decided something good must come out of this hell. So, I decided to write a guide for young people going through cancer. It is specifically written from a young person’s perspective and is filled with hints and tips nurses might not think to tell you. (It has also been checked over by a nurse of course for the medical accuracy). My plan is to distribute these books throughout the country on teenager and young adult cancer wards free of charge for anyone that needs it. I have also made it available on Amazon. If I can help just one person through my guide, then getting cancer at such a young age, doesn’t feel all for nothing.
I always say everything happens for a reason and I would like to think my reason for getting this disease was to help others. I also started an Instragram blog (mollie.mulheron) and YouTube channel called #notdramatic and have been visiting sixth forms around the area delivering awareness talks. Since my campaign I have had people messaging me saying because of me, they went to get their symptoms checked. If I can save one life from this, then it was all worth it.
As horrific as this time has been for me, I honestly feel lucky. After meeting tons of other cancer patients on the ward who have a harder to treat cancer or keep relapsing or are terminal etc I honestly feel like I have won the lottery. I’ve been there when people around me have been told there are no more treatments left for them and I have helped a 40-year-old woman plan her own funeral with her 16-year-old daughter. My cancer is one of the most aggressive out of there and can go from not existing to killing you in a month which it nearly did me, however the more aggressive are often the more treatable. How lucky is that. I’ve always believed everything happens for a reason but when it comes to losing people like some of the ones I’ve met, I start to doubt this belief.
The biggest thing I’ve learnt out of this is to NEVER take anything for granted. I realise this speech may have been hard hitting but through being open and honest I hope to inspire others to live every day to the fullest. Be present, life can change without any warning signs. Take in every moment, especially with loved ones. Particularly when we are young, we feel invincible. I used to think ‘that will never happen to me’, ‘what are the chances’, but it did happen to me. It never happens until it happens and then it’s too late. So, hold your loved ones tight, all those stupid things you argue about or worry about mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. Be lucky they are your biggest worries. So please please please, buy that thing you’ve always wanted, go on that trip you’ve been putting off, get that tattoo your mum told you not to get, tell that person you love them, live everyday like it’s your last, and never take a single day for granted.
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