Jen Bayley is a wonderful 22 year old woman from Stockport who, later this year, will be enjoying a relaxing Young Heroes break in Lanzarote with boyfriend and fellow young hero, Akky Rahman.
Jen has had a tough 3 years whilst battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) in which she was diagnosed back in February 2007.
Here Jen shares her story with us and like other young people we have featured in the newsletter her story is a reminder to us all just how brave and courageous these young people are and why the services Impact Young Heroes provide are vital to help make a big difference to the lives of the individual and their loved ones.
Jen – My story
On the 26th February 2007, aged 19, I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. Just 2 months earlier I had found a lump on my neck whilst simply brushing my hair. I kept an eye on it over the next few weeks but I was not too concerned as it didn’t hurt and was not getting any bigger.
However in January, things began to take a turn for the worse and I began to feel lethargic and slept most of the day. I soon lost my appetite and became very chesty.
I went to my doctor who sent me home with antibiotics and an inhaler for a chest infection, needless to say I got worse and strangely developed bruises all over my body.
I was studying at university at the time and one particular morning I walked with my sister and after about 4 metres and I suddenly couldn’t breathe, I broke down.
I managed to get an emergency doctors appointment that day and they carried out blood tests. They told me my haemoglobin level was dangerously low at 4 (normal range is above 10). I was advised to go to my nearest hospital where over the next 3 days I received 10 bags of blood and had a bone marrow.
The day of diagosis
10 days after been discharged from hospital I returned for my follow up appointment. I was feeling particularly lethargic, was very pale and bruised.
I was sat down along with my family and told it was Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. It was the biggest shock of my life. Not once had I thought it may be cancer.
I had my family there supporting me but it was really hard for them and they felt so helpless, especially my twin sister who had shared everything and every experience with me up until that day.
To be honest it took a couple of days for the news to fully register and even then it was only being in the environment of a hospital and talking to my consultant that it hit me.
I knew I had to stay positive and deal with it and from then on, I knew crying wouldn’t cure my cancer so I stayed as positive as possible.
Life during treatment
As I had left my symptoms till they were very severe I had no choice but to start treatment the day I was diagnosed, beginning with around 10 bags of blood.
I began Intensive Chemotherapy for a year (vincristin, daunorubicin, doxorubicin, etc) and 1 year of maintainance chemotherapy however I had 1 and half years due to complications (vincristin, dexamethozone mecaptourpourine and methatrexate). Surprisingly I found the first treatments ok. I kept myself busy but deep down I was scared although I never let it show.
Towards the last year with having complications I just got very angry, upset and couldn’t deal with it all. I was fed up and just wanted to get on with my life but every time I tried I’d end up back in hospital. I thought it would never end.
During my time in and out of hospital I managed to continue my studies and pass my first year at university by doing work at home which was a fantastic achievement. Unfortunately I couldn’t carry on into the next year as I had too many complications with my illness.
Throughout my experience I have made so many new friends and I’m even known as the young oncology units “social butterfly”.
Unfortunately after my diagnosis most of my best friends seemed to want nothing to do with me, now I realise they aren’t worth it and am just so happy with the friends that stood by me both old and new.
One friend I did make whilst in Christie’s was my now boyfriend Akky.
We had spend a lot of time together on the wards and as I was diagnosed over a year before Akky I knew a lot more about the treatment we were both on so could offer advice and experience. In hospital we would talk for hours and eventually we became really good friends.
The future’s bright
I finished my last chemotherapy in June 2009 and antifungal treatment (to treat a severe skin infection I developed) came to an end in August. When I had totally finished all treatments it was a fantastic feeling and now attend clinic every 3 months for a check up.
Inspired by the hospital and the staff that saved my life, I have decided to do Race for Life again this summer. Christie’s made my 3 years of treatment a positive experience to which I’m eternally grateful.
This year I’m also hoping to go back to university and carry on my BA (hons) early childhood studies.
Through my personal experience I would say I am much more aware of cancer and I believe little things really aren’t important and not to moan about them.
My hopes for the future are I want to be happy, have a stable job that I love and hopefully start a family but I just live each day as it comes because no one knows what is round the corner.