When Yazz was taking her GCSEs, the 15 minute walk to school was becoming more and more tiring. Her fears were initially dismissed by doctors as tonsillitis but when the problems didn’t go away; further tests revealed she had Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML).
Yazz said: “My heart dropped when I found out, I didn’t know what leukaemia was and people around me were crying.
"I felt scared because I didn’t know what it is or what to expect. It was a complete shock, you never expect anyone to get cancer at my age.”
Treatment for Yazz started right away in Bristol, miles away from home in Plymouth. Yazz’s treatment plan was to have three rounds of chemo, but during the second round she developed severe blood pressure, that was so bad it hurt whenever anyone touched her. Yazz ended up in intensive care and on a ventilator where her parents were told she might not make it.
Thankfully Yazz recovered and was told she would need a bone marrow transplant. As no one in her family was a match, she had a transplant from an anonymous donor in America. Yazz was in isolation before and after the transplant and is now back at home having regular check-ups.
Yazz is also keen to raise awareness of the longer term impact of cancer for teens like herself.
“As soon as you finish your chemo people think that you are ‘fixed’ but you have a lot of life to catch up on. There’s a real lack of awareness of the longer term impact of cancer. I have to take a lot of tablets, mainly from my time in intensive care because I lost all my muscles and had to learn to walk again.
“There was lots of nerve damage and I’ve had to be on steroids. The steroids have made my face and body quite bloated.
"I don’t feel confident because I don’t think I look great, sometimes it makes me feel like I don’t want to go out."
“I got fed up of being in a wheelchair because people feel sorry for you. I asked in hospital if I could walk on crutches and now I can. I can’t keep up with everyone, I get tired very easily and can’t do a whole day of walking.”
During this difficult time, Yazz’s family were able to stay at Sam’s House, one of CLIC Sargent’s 10 ‘Homes from Home’ around the UK. The Homes from Home are located near eight principal treatment centres, where families can stay for free during their child’s cancer treatment. This service helps families to spend more time together and avoid often debilitating travel and accommodation costs.
“My family stayed at Sam’s House which meant I could see my family every week.
"Without Sam’s House, there’s no way we could afford to stay in Bristol every weekend."
"It was great because Mum had a place to go if she was sick of the hospital too.
“Plymouth is a long way away but with Sam’s House they could stay for a while. Even if I was having a rubbish week, I had something to look forward to seeing them on the weekends thanks to CLIC Sargent.”
Yazz and her family also received support from Suzie a CLIC Sargent social worker who provide practical, emotional and financial support.
Suzie was there
“Suzie makes me smile a lot; she knows what to say and how to explain things. It’s very comforting to know she is there for me, and that mum can talk to her too, because it must have been really hard for her to just watch me go through this.”