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Dan's story

Adjusting to life with mum on watch and wait

Dan is 16. His mum Kate was diagnosed with a form of low-grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma (low-grade NHL) in September 2010, and has been on watch and wait ever since.

Dan and mum Kate, who's living with low-grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma.jpg

Dan is 16. His mum Kate was diagnosed with a form of low-grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma (low-grade NHL) in September 2010, and has been on watch and wait ever since.

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Please note, this story was written before the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. If you’re shielding, some of the activities described here may not be appropriate for you. Speak to your healthcare team for tailored advice – they know you and your individual circumstances.

I was about six when my mum was first diagnosed. I can’t remember what I thought about it at the time – I probably didn’t know what to think, because I didn’t really know what the situation was. As the years progressed, people were telling me things in bits and pieces – I think it took a year or two to fully understand.

Coming to terms with it did take longer – it’s a weird thing knowing that your mum has got cancer. But I knew that the type of blood cancer she has is not life-threatening, which is good. I also know that I am one of the lucky ones and things could be a lot worse.

It does have an effect on her life. Mum gets tired really easily and when she comes home from work, she is extra tired. But perhaps one of the reasons it hasn’t really affected me that badly is because I have gradually come to terms with it and adjusted to it.

Counselling has helped me cope with change

I haven’t talked to many people about my mum having lymphoma – I’ve just sort of got on with it. But I have had a bit of trouble adjusting to some other things in my life, and coping with changes.

I had really bad anxiety in Year Seven – I had to have two weeks off school as I was literally throwing up with worry. I ended up seeing the counsellor for two years and that definitely helped a lot.

We discussed lots of things I had seen and done in my life, including talking about my mum a few times. The counsellor was a person I could go to when I was upset. 

Talking to my friends about cancer

When I told some of my friends that my mum has cancer, they were quite shocked. Lots of them have met my mum and say that she’s the best. They couldn’t tell that she had cancer. But once they knew, they were great about it – after I told them things went back to normal.

Because of my own experiences, I’ve been able to support a friend whose close family member had cancer. It affected him really badly. He was very sad and I was glad I could be there for him.

Ways to cope with stress

Someone recommended watching the TV show Modern Family as a way to escape, and I got really into that. It’s really funny and it always calms me down! I am also a massive film fanatic – I just have to be careful that I don’t watch films that are too anxiety-provoking.

I do free running once a week – it’s also called Parkour. It’s a bit like gymnastics and it’s a great sport to learn. At the start of every session, we play dodgeball – it’s very stress-relieving to throw dodge! Free running can also be a way to de-stress, especially when I do it with my friends. It’s really entertaining. I’ve got new skills and tricks that I didn’t have before I started.

Using my imagination and being creative

At school I do product design and art and I’m going to study games design at college. My mum says I have a massive imagination – when I am at home I try and think about nice things and literally just sit and zone out for a while. I find it’s a good way to escape from stressing out.

I like using my imagination but turning it into something real. It’s good to get things that are stuck in my head down on paper.

Being there for my mum

I don’t always know what to say when it comes to the cancer – I’m not always great with words. But mum and I do loads of stuff together and just hang out together. It’s great just being silly! Mum is a movie fanatic and sci-fi fan as well, so we go to the cinema a lot.

To other young people whose parents have cancer, I would say, “If you need to get a counsellor to help you get through it, you should do it.”

I’ve got used to mum’s cancer – you can live with it if you try. Eventually, when you come to terms with it, it’s not all bad.

Janssen-Cilag Ltd has supported Blood Cancer UK with funding for the production of this web page and others within the ‘Living well’ section. It had no influence over the content.

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