Wiktoria is 19 years old. She was born in Poland in 2003 and moved to Northern Ireland with her family aged 9. A year later, Wiktoria was diagnosed with leukaemia (ALL) after falling unwell during a family holiday.
She is sharing her story on World Cancer Day to raise awareness of the impact a cancer diagnosis has on young people and the difference Lucy, one of Cancer Fund for Children’s Cancer Support Specialists, made to her experience.
“My name is Wiktoria and I am 19 years old. I was born in Poland in 2003 and moved with my family to Northern Ireland when I was nine years old where I attended St Joseph’s Primary School. I didn’t know any English at all, and I mean AT ALL! However, I have become fluent with time.
I was always a healthy kiddo but at the age of 10, during the summer holidays, whilst visiting family in Poland I started feeling a bit unwell. No-one knew what was going on. My bones were sore, I had no appetite, I had a really high temperature and felt generally unwell. This was when I was first diagnosed with leukaemia (ALL).
It Took Everyone By Surprise
My diagnosis took everyone by surprise. Nobody in our family had a history of cancer and as you can imagine, this was a really tough time for me and my parents. My holiday turned into an extended holiday as I started my treatment in Poland, in a hospital in a town called Zabrze which was a bit of a drive from where my family live. I stayed there with my mum for about three months. Towards the end of that time, the doctors and nurses began preparing me for my flight back to Northern Ireland so that I could have my treatment here.
My family and I got on a flight back to Northern Ireland and this is where I had the rest of my treatment. After a year or two, I was feeling so much better. The treatment had worked to my amazement. Or so we all thought…
A few years after my leukaemia was cured, my mum received a phone call for me to go for a check-up. This did seem a little strange, but we thought nothing of it at the time. My doctor told us that she suspected that the leukaemia had come back but to make sure I had to have a Bone Marrow Biopsy. I was terrified!!!
My Head Was Full Of Thoughts
Whilst waiting patiently for the results, my head was full of thoughts like… is it really back? Why me? What is going to happen now? What about school? Keep in mind I was 15 at the time, about to turn 16. This meant that if I was really ill again, I would have to be transferred to another hospital because I wasn’t technically a child anymore.
This did happen in the end. I was moved to the City Hospital in Belfast. At first, I didn’t know what to expect or what the nurses and the other staff were going to be like. Fortunately, they turned out to be the nicest people ever and they welcomed me with open arms! I am now 19 and have gone through goodness knows how many different types of chemotherapy, two stem cell transplants and if that wasn’t enough, a T-Cell therapy in London UCL hospital.
Last year, I met this wonderful lady called Lucy. She is one of the Cancer Support Specialists from Cancer Fund for Children. At first, I didn’t know what she was going to be like but she turned out to be the bubbliest person I have ever met. She never fails to brighten up the room! Now every time I come down to the Bridgewater Suite for a check-up (which can take hours) I don’t have to worry about being bored because Lucy always has something for me to do. When she comes up to the suite, Lucy brings stuff to occupy me. Recently we got creative through art therapy and even a little competitive with board games. We always have so much fun and Lucy always manages to put a smile on my face.
A Simple Thing Can Make Someone’s Day
During a recent longer stay in hospital, Lucy made sure to come down to the ward to see if I needed anything, to have a chat and keep me company. Even when she couldn’t come up to visit, Lucy made sure to send me a text message to check in and make sure I was okay. Sometimes the simple things like a conversation can make someone’s day and Lucy does more than that. I can see that the work she does, she does with passion. She likes doing it and she likes helping people, but I don’t think Lucy knows how much she really is helping young people like me. I’m extremely happy to have met Lucy and I hope that she keeps doing what she’s doing.
It’s Not Easy
The one thing I would like people to know about cancer is that it’s not easy. It’s a lot to take in. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man, woman, young, old, weak or strong, cancer has a big impact on anyone touched by it. It changes the way you live your life and not everyone deals with it well. There are happy days but there are also sad days when sometimes you have to fake a smile and pretend that you’re happy because you don’t want your close ones to see that you’re weak. You want to stay strong for them and you certainly don’t want them to worry.
Having cancer has affected me a lot. It has changed my life. It has made me the person I am today and has led me to meet some amazing people. It has also made me mature a bit quicker as it has made me view the world from a different perspective.
I don’t think people realise that when they support Cancer Fund for Children, they are helping young people like me when we really need it. This charity led me to meet Lucy and I am certain that thanks to Cancer Fund for Children’s support many other young people have gotten the help that they need and felt better equipped to deal with whatever cancer has thrown at them.
Thank you, Wiktoria, for sharing your story. Find out more about the support we offer to teenagers and young adults with cancer here or donate here to help ensure children and young people impacted by cancer receive the right support, at the right time.