By Jason Loo
Graduation. The day I sat with my peers waiting anxiously for our names to be called. My proud parents who flew halfway across the world to see me walk those few steps on stage, were sat just rows behind me. Today marks the end of three years of student life, and here we were collecting our scrolls – the key to ‘the working world’. I already secured a position with KPMG and so to me, everything I had planned was in place – it was perfect. When I was finally on stage shaking the Dean’s hand, I, like all those before me and all those who would come after me, felt proud for our achievements and excited for our future. However, I, unlike my peers who were out celebrating that night, was hospitalised just hours later.
I received a phone call from Coventry University Hospital regarding my blood test results. I was required to return to hospital immediately.
After two days of meeting numerous doctors and nurses, undergoing tests, X-rays and scans, I was diagnosed with a rare form testicular cancer called Mediastinal Teratoma. I was given a poor prognosis. A 50% chance of survival.
At that moment, I wanted to go back to Graduation when everything was in place and everything was perfect. The reality is that I never expected myself to have severe health problems until much later in life. Cancer clearly could not hit a 22 year old right? Wrong.
From that day onwards, my life became devoted to a test of endurance, will power and strength in fighting the condition which had taken and will continue to take so many precious lives away from us. Many of us will know of those who have been touched by cancer and understand gruelling tests and trials it puts us through. Many of you will also know the importance of family and friends at such a time.
I was fortunate to have the support of my family and friends throughout my cancer treatment. I also received support from charity organisations, notably Clic Sargeant. It was this support which gave me the strength of endurance.
After my diagnosis, I transferred to Nottingham University Hospital, the NHS centralised location for my type of cancer. There I had 4 cycles of BEP Chemotherapy which was followed by surgery. Chemotherapy gave me a range of unwanted but unavoidable side effects such as being nauseous and constantly being tired, not to mention the drain of sheer physical strength.
In addition to this, I also had to deal with the move to Nottingham. This was an alien location to me having never even visited the city before. It was going to be a place I would have to adjust to, and quickly. My mum had stayed after learning of my condition. She had never lived in the UK before, and did not know how to go about living in this alien city. Clic Sargent has helped us every step of the way, from offering us a place at Billy’s house (Clic Sargent’s home from home) to helping us become familiar with the area..
Many of you will know that cancer is beyond enduring physical symptoms. The psychological and emotional aspect of cancer makes us see and react to things differently. We are much more vulnerable to setbacks. When my ex-girlfriend broke up with me because of cancer, I felt life was not worth living. It sounds exaggerated and over-emotional but at that time, she was my emotional support. It took some time for my Clic Sargent social workers to convince me otherwise, but they never gave up on me. I was also inspired by the young people I lived with at Billy’s house.
I spent eight months at Billy’s house. I met and lived with other children, teenagers and young adults, and saw a very different world – a world that I never thought existed, especially for young people. Good grades and money do not account for much in this world where our goal is only to survive. Our lives are at stake. Fortunately, we had each other and someone was always there to keep us company. Together we formed a support network and we thrived. They taught me to never give up fighting no matter how uncertain or how dark the future appears. They were my inspiration.
Two years has passed from my initial diagnosis. My surgery was a year and a half ago. I have never felt more alive. Cancer has been a wake-up call. It has taught me that life is not to be taken for granted. Without health, you can have nothing. Cancer gave me the gap year to learn to live.
For more information on CLIC Sargent visit https://www.clicsargent.org.uk/