Lauren Nicholson from Ballymena says her cancer diagnosis when she was 15 changed her life forever but says “I went through one of the worst things someone can go through, and I know I can do things even when I don’t feel strong enough”.
Just weeks before her 16th birthday, Lauren found a lump but she said “at 15 it never occurred to me that it could be anything serious”. She did not suffer from any other symptoms, just the lump that she noticed on her neck while doing her makeup.
Lauren explained, “within 6 weeks I had all the tests. CT Scans, MRI, blood tests, operation biopsies, consultations and after six weeks I had started chemotherapy. I think because of my age everything was fast tracked”. Through all the tests, Lauren was unaware of what she was about to endure, saying “I was oblivious, I just went and did the tests. I just did what I was told, I was in denial”.
After the various tests, she was diagnosed with stage two Lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. Despite the diagnosis, Lauren counts herself lucky, saying “when you hear the word cancer you associate it with death, I was very lucky that I got the type of cancer that I did because it was so treatable”.
However, it wasn’t an easy road. With eight rounds of chemotherapy followed by three weeks of radiotherapy, her body took a hit. “I can’t explain how bad the nausea was”, she said. “It’s unlike any other type of sickness. I couldn’t move out of bed or eat for days, I slept nearly constantly.” Her illness also caused her to miss out on time with friends when she needed it most, as she said her “immune system practically didn’t exist” and something as small as a cold could put her in the hospital.
Four years on from her successful treatment, she is realising that she isn’t able to leave all the effects of cancer in the past. “Cancer has changed my body a lot because of the physical and mental effects of the treatment and weigh fluctuations is a big part of that”.
Her bravery is as evident now as it was during her treatment, with her message of body positivity: “It’s about loving my body after what it’s gone through. I have scarring, I have bruising. It’s hard to look at other girls on Instagram. But I need to learn self-love and learn that my body went through a lot and it saved my life. It worked hard to get me to where I am and I’m still here. My body kept me alive and it’s important to love it”.
Lauren gave this advice to other teens going through the same thing, “you can get through it because you’re stronger than you think. It does not define you”.
For more information on Lymphoma, visit www.lymphoma-action.org.uk/