"I know that people don't always know what to say, but just being there to listen is so helpful."
Holly is 19 years old, living in Warrington, England. On December 6, 2013, she was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma stage 3. She had a very large tumor which had spread to her lymph nodes. She was later declared cancer and then was re-diagnosed with cancer this year. Holly was notified July of this year that she has beaten cancer yet again!
To Holly: I felt connected with you instantly! It's obvious that you are just one of those people that make a mark in people's lives right away. I am so grateful to have learned and am continuing to learn about you and your life. One thing in particular that you said to me that really motivated me to reach out to more and more women about their stories is "I'm always open with everything to do with my cancer, so don't feel like you'd be offending me". That was my main concern when I first started this project. I never like to tell people "I know what you're going through", whether I encountered the same type of issue or not. I am not them and I don't know what they are personally going through. I was afraid that I could ask the wrong question or in the wrong way and really offend someone so I really want to thank you for putting my mind at ease. You also said "I've had a few people come to me recently to ask for some advice and I'd like to be able to speak to anyone who wants advice." It touches my heart how not only you, but all of the women who I have interviewed are so selfless in wanting to help others who have been diagnosed. I'm thankful that we are able to keep in touch and I will always try my hardest to make sure I can be encouraging to you. I know that you are going through some very difficult days right now so please know that I am praying for you every day! ♥
Interview Date: 10/12/15
How were you diagnosed?
The doctors thought I had a perianal abscess. So I had three surgeries before they took a biopsy because they had no idea why I was in so much pain. After being in the hospital for 3-4 weeks, the biopsy results came back and I was told I had a tumor. I found a lump a few weeks ago and on October 8, 2015 I was diagnosed with cancer again.
What were your initial thoughts and reaction when you were diagnosed?
When they told me, I just kept repeating "It isn't fair." I just kept thinking that I might die at the age of 17 without experiencing the things that life has to offer. When I was diagnosed they had no idea what tumor it was or how far along it had gotten. I just had this news that it was cancer but I wasn't told if I had a chance of survival. Now that it's come back and I don't know much about it, I'm scared.
Is there a family history of cancer?
After being diagnosed, how have you changed your perspective on life?
I don't worry about the small things that I would usually get stressed about anymore. I know how important it is to have family and friends who love you for who you are, and who are there for you when you truly need them.
What gives you strength and motivation?
My family and friends are the main motivation for me. I also have a passion for art and experiencing new things. Knowing that I want to see and experience certain things in my life is how I push on through the bad times.
Who is your support system and how have they supported you?
When I was first diagnosed I had a boyfriend, we're just friends now but he helped me through a lot of my treatment; knowing that I still have him to lean on makes me feel stable. I also have siblings who are very understanding, caring, and willing to do anything that they can to help me. The same goes for my other family members and my friends.
What is your treatment process and what is your perspective on it?
I had 7 months of intensive chemotherapy, 6 week of radiotherapy, and a year of maintenance chemo. Now that my cancer has come back, I'll need to have more surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Knowing that I have to go through all of this again is very scary.
Is there anything that you want to tell loved ones of those that have cancer or people in general that don't understand the pain experienced?
Definitely, having cancer isn't just physically painful, it's also mentally straining. I feel like the mental sides of things are even worse than being in pain, because it's a lonely place in your own head during that time.
What words do you have for ones afraid to get checked?
I know that it's a scary situation, but getting checked is so important. If I wouldn't have gotten checked when I did, I could have been terminally ill. I wouldn't be here now. Not knowing what I have or don't have can be more stressful than not knowing.
What advice or message can you provide to those who have been diagnosed?
Being positive is very important. I know that it's a lot easier said than done and yes you will have days of sadness and pain, but you will get through it. Try to keep yourself busy and do things that you enjoy; that will make things a lot easier. You have people who will support you, don't be afraid to look to them in your time of need.
If you would like to contact Holly for any advice, contact her via Instagram at hollyhamertbo.