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Ellen was diagnosed with leukemia when she was just nine years old. She relapsed at 12 and she lives with the long-term impacts of childhood cancer. But she’s learned how to thrive.


My life changed when I was 9. I went on holiday to the Isle of Wight with my school and had to leave the same day as I was suddenly covered in bruises and as previous blood tests had come back as abnormal. I was absolutely distraught. I was rushed to Great Ormond Street that night and my world was turned upside down, and treatment started straight away. My normal everyday life had changed and I was in GOSH for 5 months.

I then went on to relapse just under 3 years later, and due to late diagnosis I had a massive brain haemorrhage which left me unable to walk or talk for 6 months, meaning that as well as being on chemo, I was also having to have intensive occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech therapy daily to get me walking and communicating again. It was honestly the toughest time of my life.

I have been left with poor memory and facial recognition, hydrocephalus, chronic headaches/migraines, orthostatic tachycardia syndrome as well as exhausting chronic fatigue. Due to the side effects of treatment I have now had 9 brain surgeries and am at the hospital frequently.

Despite all this, I am now back to work and I can’t believe I managed to complete the Renew programme. I am now incorporating exercise into my daily life and am a whole new person from where I was before the programme, when I couldn’t even run for a bus. My whole health has improved and I have lost so much weight. My health isn’t perfect and I’m still living with daily pain but I’m so focused on having as much of a “normal” life as possible and not letting my pain get in the way of things. Of course I still have bad days, and it’s then that I have to be kind to myself, even though I sometimes get frustrated that I can’t do what my friends can.

I am so proud of myself. I look back to where I was a few years ago and I know that my 12 year old self wouldn’t have believed that I could have achieved so much.

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