Joshua’s Story on International Men’s Day
19th November marks International Men’s Day, celebrating the positive values men bring to the world, their families and their communities. The day highlights positive role-models and raises awareness of male well-being.
Cancer Fund for Children Specialist Helen Patterson recently met with Joshua, 19, to listen to his experiences with cancer. Helen said “Josh is a class young man, he is very inspirational in his attitude towards life. He gave such an honest reflection of his experience of cancer and services with some humour thrown in. I hope that other people can see his positivity and benefit from that themselves.”
Helen: Joshua tell us bit about yourself and when you first found out you had cancer?
Joshua: I’m 19 and studying Environmental Technology at College. I was diagnosed on the 9th February 2017.
H: Can you tell me a bit about your treatment? Were you off school/college for a long time?
J: My treatment involved a lot of IV chemotherapy and chemotherapy injected into the spinal fluid through lumbar punctures. To my understanding the objective of the IV chemo is to kill all the leukaemia cells and the lumbar punctures were to prevent the leukaemia spreading to the brain. I also had steroid bursts which turn you into a literal gremlin, so angsty and relentlessly hungry.
The treatment made me very, very tired, and nauseous so trying to keep up with schoolwork was quite difficult. School was basically postponed until November 2017 and even then, I only continued studying Environmental Technology and dropped ICT.
H: How did this affect you?
J: It didn’t really affect me negatively, I found sixth form quite stressful and kind of preferred being in the hospital to being at school. My school was very understanding and helpful and allowed me to join back into class a year behind.
H: Can you tell me how Cancer Fund for Children supported when you were in hospital?
J: They helped so much. A Neil, the Ward Support Specialist from Cancer Fund for Children would come to the ward and usually get a few of the patients together for some board games, arts and crafts, movies etc. It really helped pass the time and lift everyone’s mood.
H: How did you benefit from meeting other young people going through cancer?
J: I benefited greatly! To see them getting on with life normally and get some advice from them was brilliant. They’re also just genuinely nice people.
H: Have you stayed at Daisy Lodge? What was that like?
J: I’ve stayed a few times; each time was great. I NEVER pass on the facials. It has a very relaxed atmosphere but also has plenty of activities to keep you entertained. There are young adults with cancer short breaks where you get to stay there for a weekend with other people in your situation. For example, I met a friend who also has ALL and was able to ask her what her experience was like, what we found similar and generally relate to one another.
H: Has having cancer changed you?
J: Most definitely! I was much less outgoing and eager to try new things before my diagnosis and treatment. And now I love to be outside, as being in a ward for 5 months without so much as a breeze has really made me appreciate nature and even the feeling of rain. Who knew!?
I’m also a lot more positive of a person now. I mean, you can only go onwards and upwards from vomiting multiple times a day for months…
H: What are your hopes for the future?
J: I hope to go to university, get a job that allows me to live comfortably and spend my free time developing hobbies. I’d love to do the most cliché thing ever and travel the world.
H: What advice would you give other young people facing a cancer diagnosis?
J: Without trying to sound patronising, trust in the doctors and nurses and stay positive. And don’t worry about your education, it can wait. There really is no rush.
We are really grateful that Joshua took the time to share his story in the hope that somebody else facing a similar situation can hear his message and take positivity from it. Cancer Fund for Children continue to provide support to Josh and his family as well as many other families throughout Northern Ireland.
The message from International Men’s Day is to encourage men to teach the boys in their lives the values, character and responsibilities of being a man. Mahatma Gandhi said, “We must become the change we seek.” It is only when everyone, both men and women, lead by example that we will create a fair and safe society which allows everyone the opportunity to prosper.