I’m only 19, why does my body feel like it’s falling apart?
Bradley’s experience began after A levels. At 19 years young he was suffering from a host of symptoms; bloated stomach, swollen spleen with a skeletal, malnourished appearance. “I had chronic fatigue, my hair was straw-like and without warning, I would get stabbing pains in my ribs, where my spleen was. I kept thinking, why do I feel like this? I’m only 19 – why does my body feel like it’s falling apart?” Bradley remembers the date – 13th June 2013. Chronic myeloid leukaemia was the diagnosis.
23 years old, Seren – now Creative Awareness Lead at the cancer charity CATS – will relate. At 19, in her first year of university she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I can’t imagine at that stage in life dealing with something like cancer. Remembering to pick up my laundry was a challenge for me back then.
Phoebe, now a 20-year-old linguistics student at Newcastle University, was diagnosed with a genetic condition called Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP) at the age of 13 years old. Phoebe explained, “it has come to define my medical life and makes me prone to cancerous polyps throughout my digestive system.” That year, Phoebe underwent drastic surgery to remove her large intestine.
And then there’s our friend Jack – 26 year old founder of ballsy charity, Baggy Trousers UK, who five years ago was diagnosed with stage two testicular cancer, with the bonus news that the cancer had also spread to his abdominal lymph nodes.
To recap, we’ve got four people – all young, ‘normal’ people who have had their life stop in front of their eyes. And it’s happening at an age when you’re all about school, friends, parties and the ever growing, never sleeping world of social media.
1. Living a double life because cancer ain’t #pretty
For Bradley, months of chemo and drug trials followed his diagnosis. Despite being exhausted by the process, I was astounded to learn that during this time Bradley took on internships at Liberty, Conde Nast, Burberry and finally, the crème de la crème, British Vogue where he ended up working part-time alongside doing a degree, of course. Bradley took to his Instagram feed, updating audiences on all the latest looks, fashion week and his (genuinely) fabulous hair. Follower numbers were rocketing but at what cost?