Luke and I met when we were around 17 years old. We were both completing our A-Level studies in different sixth-form colleges in Cambridge.
After a few months of us dating, Luke started to have some pain in parts of his back and shoulder. At the time neither of us were overly concerned, putting the pain down to a pulled muscle or general aches after working out. However, it soon became apparent that something more serious was going on with Luke. It took him a long time to get the proper treatment he needed, with GPs misdiagnoses and incorrect treatments.
Months later, after a GP had finally suggested a scan for Luke, he was rushed to Addenbrookes Hospital. I remember that day at sixth-form so clearly and getting the call from Luke saying how they thought it might be cancer, I was by myself at the time. I remember walking to get picked up by my mum in complete shock. Never in a million years would we have ever guessed that it would have been cancer.
When Luke was in hospital, we found out that lymphoma had attacked parts of his spine so seriously that he could have become paralysed at any moment. The next month was full of surgeries and intensive care. I visited Luke every day in hospital during that time.
The six-months that followed were a whirlwind of chemo appointments, studying for our A-Level exams and somehow trying to have a semi-normal relationship! At the time we just soldiered through because what else could we do? Looking back, I have no idea how I managed to complete my A-Levels while going through all the emotions that came seeing the person I loved going through cancer treatment, and having no idea if they would get better or not. The day of my final A-Level exam Luke was told that the chemotherapy had worked and that he didn’t need any further treatment.
It was a few years later when I was at university that the magnitude of what Luke and I had been though hit me. I seemed to be dealing with everything much worse than everyone else and I felt so guilty and stupid; I was the one who was struggling when Luke and others had seemingly moved on from it all. It was at that time that I reached out to my GP surgery on campus and I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder with some symptoms of PTSD. I had lots of intrusive thoughts and flashbacks to key moments during Luke’s treatment. Since then, I’ve had a few different types of therapy and counselling to help me deal with my anxiety. I now have a better handle on things but there are still days where I really struggle to manage my mental health.
I’ve got to the point in my life where I now realise that I never needed to feel guilty or weak for struggling to deal with the experiences of what happened to me when I was a teenager. I really hope by sharing my story that other girlfriends, boyfriends, partners and spouses who might be having similar feelings know that they are not alone.