TJ, 20, was told ‘it’s cancer’ after he’d been experiencing pain in his head and neck for several months. He lost his job and found treatment hard to cope with. He was supported by CLIC Sargent Social Worker Sam who stepped in to provide expert care and support. TJ credits his Muslim faith with getting him through his cancer journey. Here he shares his story.
“I was feeling really ill and I had real pain in my neck and head so I went to the GP who said it was probably a pulled muscle, and to take some paracetamol. I went back three times and they kept saying the same.
“All this time I was working really hard doing nightshifts as a picker in a warehouse. I was tired and in pain and I was having a hard time with my boss there. I moved jobs but when I asked for some time off for a doctor’s appointment at my new place, they said no, and that I could lose my job if I did.
“So the next day instead of going to my appointment I went to work. But when I got there the agency had already replaced me. On my way home I found myself on a bridge thinking to myself – ‘shall I jump?’ But as a Muslim we believe you go to hell if you do things like that. That was the only thing that stopped me.
“I got an appointment at hospital for a CT scan, which showed there was something there and they scheduled a biopsy for a couple of weeks’ time. But when I went in to get the results of the biopsy they said I needed another biopsy.
I was totally shocked
“I said no, I was angry and upset and I went to Belgium. They called me when I was over there and they said: ‘Come back, we need to do another biopsy – this is something big - we’re telling you now.’
I decided I’d pay for a biopsy in Belgium instead, and the same day they told me I had cancer. I was totally shocked. I stayed in hospital overnight and I spent the whole night praying.
“Four days later they told me the cancer I had was nasopharyngeal carcimona (a rare type of head and neck cancer). All I could think was, how long have I got left? They said to go back to Birmingham for treatment as soon as possible.
“When I got back to the UK my GP said that they couldn’t accept the biopsy results from Belgium. I was like, ‘it cost me 8,000 euros! What’s the difference? Are you crazy? The longer we wait the more it will spread’.
“But they made me go through another biopsy anyway, and they found I had the same thing the Belgian doctors said I had. I was so frustrated that I had to go through four biopsies altogether.
Treatment was hard
“The first two weeks of chemotherapy were really hard. I was meant to be in for three days but instead I was in hospital for two weeks as I lost so much weight, it made me feel so sick. The second and third sessions weren’t so bad, but by the fourth I was so weak that they decided to stop it, and then radiotherapy started.
“I had radiotherapy every day for six weeks and it was even worse than the chemo. I couldn’t eat, drink, couldn’t move by the third week.
“A friend I made in hospital who also had radiotherapy was paralysed by his cancer and then he passed away and I was scared. I just said to the doctors – ‘no more! Even if I die I want to die in a peaceful way,’ and went home.
I got through it
“I’d met my CLIC Sargent Social Worker Sam when I’d first started treatment and he was always around for a chat and to help out with things.
“When he heard I’d checked myself out of hospital he came to my house and talked to me. He said that I was halfway through, and that I had a good chance of surviving if I stuck with it, and he took me back to hospital in his car. I got through it.
“Sam is a good man. He’s sorted out a lot of things for me, like Employment and Support Allowance and Personal Independence Payments because I had to stop work and needed money to live. He got me some grants too. Also I had a problem with where I lived – the landlord wouldn’t fix the roof and it was cold. Sam talked to him and got all of that done.
My Muslim faith has helped
“I used to be really into my health and fitness and go to the gym a lot so losing all the weight during treatment has been hard, and so has losing my hair. Sam showed me a picture of another young guy that CLIC Sargent helped who had been in the same situation as me, who was in Muscle and Fitness magazine recently talking about getting back to fitness after treatment. That helped.
“I live with my mum and dad and sister and they’ve been really supportive and positive. My Muslim faith has helped too. In Islam everything happens for a reason, is a blessing. Cancer has humbled me and I’ve gone back to my faith. It’s helped me see that life is full of tests and to be patient and grateful.”
Find out more
CLIC Sargent is the UK’s leading cancer charity for children, young people and their families. Our care teams have been providing expert support across the UK for years. We fight tirelessly for young cancer patients like TJ – individually, locally and nationally. Donate online now to help us continue our vital work.
To find out more about how CLIC Sargent can help support you, please contact us on 0300 330 0803 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Most people who are thinking of taking their own life have shown warning signs beforehand. These can include becoming depressed, showing sudden changes in behaviour, talking about wanting to die and feelings of hopelessness. These feelings do improve and can be treated. If you are concerned about someone, or need help yourself, please contact the Samaritans on 116 123.