Friday the 4th of February 2022 is World Cancer Day. This year, Megan Campbell, 19, from Salisbury, is celebrating both the big and small wins she has achieved since being diagnosed with gastric malt lymphoma aged 17.
After finishing her first year of A-Levels, Megan was busy working on her medical school application and personal statement when she started to feel unwell.
“I had a course planned at the beginning of the summer holidays to assist with my medical application. I had been feeling rough for a few weeks with stomach pain but I had medical investigations planned for the coming weeks so was not too concerned.
“Unfortunately, a day before my course, I began to feel worse and that night I started to vomit coffee ground vomit. I woke up the next day and logged onto the course, feeling rough from no sleep, but I was then admitted into hospital where I spent over a week undergoing tests, as well as also trying to complete this course and write my personal statement all whilst in hospital.
“When I did come home from hospital with my bag of medication, I started to feel better and began preparing for my medical admissions exam. I was then delivered the news I had cancer which threw another spanner into the works. My life felt like it was crumbling around me and I had no control over what happened.”
Despite receiving this news, Megan still went on to do her exam.
“I struggled to revise for my exam as my mind was asking about a million ‘what if’ questions regarding my diagnosis, not helped by a high dose of steroids which prevented me from sleeping; however, I managed to sit my exam and perform to the best of my abilities at that time.”
Then, just as Megan was told she had secured an interview for medical school, the doctors told her she would have to start chemotherapy treatment.
“I was devastated and it took me a few weeks to start feeling better about my situation and just about life in general. I managed to pick myself up and did my interview which gained me a place at medical school providing that I got the exam results required.”
Megan went on to revise for her A-Levels, which she needed good grades in to go to medical school, all while going through chemotherapy treatment and facing its side effects. Despite it all, Megan went on to get the grades she needed in her exams and secured her place.
“I could see my journey and how despite it all I had reached my goal of securing a place at medical school. I am so grateful to myself and to my parents and teachers for encouraging me to carry on and not give up despite all the obstacles that had been put in my way. Life is just so unpredictable but it is those times when you look back at your journey, you almost shock yourself that you managed to get where you wanted to.”
From the moment of diagnosis, Megan was supported by a Young Lives vs Cancer social worker, who helped Megan find the strength to face cancer and reach this incredible achievement.
Young Lives vs Cancer aims to help young people with cancer thrive during and after treatment.
The charity wants to show that every moment is triumphant when facing cancer and deserves to be celebrated. And so, the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people is marking World Cancer Day by passing over their social media channels to young people to celebrate each and every win.
While celebrating reaching her goal of securing a place at medical school, and now in remission, Megan acknowledges that when facing cancer, it’s sometimes the smallest steps that can feel like the biggest achievement.
“A small win for me was when I had been in shielding for quite a long time, as I was unable to return to school due to COVID and being vulnerable, but I was able to see a friend for a socially distanced walk and coffee for the first time and it was just amazing to start feeling normal again with regards to both COVID and cancer.”
Rachel Kirby-Rider, Chief Executive at Young Lives vs Cancer commented, “Going through cancer when you’re young is life shattering, you have big plans and dreams and then cancer comes along and puts a line through it all. Children and young people we support now are facing this as well as the added pressure of an ongoing pandemic. On top of isolation and fear, many young people have had to face news and treatment alone without someone holding their hand, due to restrictions.
“After an especially tough couple of years for young people we support, like Megan, we believe every win is an achievement. Whether that’s graduating, getting that first job or some days just putting one foot in front of the other.”
You can find out more about Young Lives vs Cancer here.