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Cengi was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma when he was 24. It changed his perspective in ways that surprised him


What do you want people to know about your experience?

I want people, particularly those who are misinformed or unaware, to know and comprehend how permeant cancer can be. Whilst my cancer diagnosis and treatment ensued the side effectsand reactions representative of many, malignancy imposed unique conundrums that I hadn't planned myself for. Sexuality, life philosophy, mental health and relationships, for example, were personal avenues that warranted redefining. I've come to understand that sickness remains on the societal sidelines. Only when you become a victim of it, do you know why various trusts exist and why donations are needed. Using my experience, I hope to educate and bring greater public consciousness to these issues exclusive to sickness. It can change your life so radically and I believe that the world we live in demands us to be prepared and informed.

What does being a young person who's had a cancer diagnosis mean to you?

As a young person who has had a cancer diagnosis, it means understanding the how temperamental life can be in a disruptive, untimely manner yet choosing to ameliorate the situation. With the current generation of young patients contributing to mental health, diversity and inclusion, we can see discourse around sickness. It has slowly become a topic that is no longer reserved for consultations or hospital visits. Young people become educators, facilitators and advocates to ensure the appropriate resources, guidance and care are available to those with cancer.

At present, my history with cancer means ensuring that I can offer new, valuable insights, and bring attention to issues that lack priority. This comes with a deep understanding of my experience, and reaching out to the community. Cancer drastically altered my life, slapped me with existentialism and made me see the change it brought as something that can help manifest a better me - or the version of myself I've always aspired towards.

What does being part of a community of young people who have also experienced cancer meant to you?

Having cancer can be isolating, and reaching out or stepping into a community can be an apprehensive process. Finding the appropriate words to say, concerns about validity or the 'right' outlook - there's a bit of insecurity.

But people need people, and my trust in this belief superseded any other thought. Attending meet-ups, partaking in trips organised by cancer trusts and one-on-one conversations twisted the bulb until light began to flicker. Isolation, like cancer, breeds languishment but occupying spaces and conversations jolted revelation. The paranoia, the humour, the grief - finally all materialised. In moments where feelings weren't entirely mirrored, the time-served nods ofcommunity members - now whom I consider friends - prompted validity. The singularity and obscurity of experiences were understandable, for we have all dealt with our own.

To my mind, cancer makes one stronger and stranger. We become these foreign bodies to onlookers and partially to ourselves, aware that our experience transforms us and prompts re-learning. By participating in a community of young people, the feelings of strangeness begin to subside. It's a club you don't want to be part of - due to the unfavourable eligibility criteria -but when you are in it, you feel normal. You feel heard and seen.

What does living life alongside cancer mean to you?

Even though I am in remission, I am aware that it is not synonymous with being cancer-free. It's living within the reality of cancer potentially coming back. It's being told that you may deal with long-term side effects or none whatsoever - you are placed in a grey area, a precarious existence. Whilst that used to cause major health paranoia, anxiety and subsequently being the patient that medical staff couldn't seem to get enough of - those feelings were not conducive to good health. Thus, living life with cancer meant fostering a healthy relationship with my bodyand mind. With gentleness, patience and medical reassurance. I think fear and paranoia will be things that I will learn to manage as time goes on.

Life with cancer also means living with a sense of authenticity, fulfilment and self-betterment. I think for many young people, our life trajectories and actions before diagnosis are centred around the wants and opinions of others. We lose priority over ourselves and place happiness and liberty as long-term goals. Cancer strangely showed me all the things that were missing and that I needed urgently in my life. Now I hope to reunite myself with what was lost.

What do you wish you'd known about cancer?

If I could go back and ask 'What should I know about cancer' to a consultant, cancer nurse specialist or youth counsellor, I wish I'd been informed about its permeance and the difficult emotions and conflicts I would face. I may have been able to prepare myself to grieve the losses and accept how the riot against cancer would leave me with the arduous task of cleaning up the debris.Otherwise known as trauma. But I've come to recognise that being unacquainted and having startling introductions are somewhat par for the cancer course.

Even with all the information provided, I believe that no degree of forewarning, risk-aversion or safety-netting entirely prepares you for cancer. Ultimately, living through it was the only way to substantiate this. But I believe living with and through cancer brings value to our life experiences, gives us takeaways and bestows young patients with wisdom beyond their years.

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