In the video Patsy talks to 24-year-old Hannah Dunne about her experience of cancer to promote CLIC Sargent’s new Looking after yourself online information resource with tips from young cancer patients on looking after their mind and body during and after cancer treatment.
The film is part of the #NoFilter4Cancer campaign by CLIC Sargent, the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people. The campaign aims to reveal ‘the hidden costs’ of cancer for young people in body image, self-care and mental health.
Patsy, who is a long-term Celebrity Ambassador for the charity, met with Hannah on a recent trip to London – her first in three years since moving to LA in 2014. During their chat Hannah revealed how going to the gym during her cancer treatment and wearing make-up helped her to feel better about herself. Hannah, who is now in remission told Patsy about being diagnosed, losing her hair and her vow to stay positive.
At the time of her shock cancer diagnosis, Hannah was fit and healthy, working as a qualified fitness/Zumba instructor. She discovered a lump in her neck which she put down to a muscular knot caused by a fall whilst skiing and treated with massage and painkillers.
Weeks later after no improvement, Hannah went to the GP who sent her off for tests which revealed that she had Hodgkin lymphoma. “Because of my job, I’m really aware of my body and any changes. I knew there was something different about this, it wasn’t a muscular thing and it could be something serious.
"When I was told it was cancer my heart felt like it had fallen out of my chest and I became numb.
"I remember thinking, ’I’m strong and I can deal with this’ and from that point I made a promise to myself that I would stay positive and strong, I was determined to beat this.
“At that time, I didn’t know much about chemo or what cancer was like. If I’d known about how bad chemo was I would have been very scared.”
During treatment, Hannah, like many young people with cancer, had issues with body image and says that exercise helped her through it. “As a woman, my hair distinguishes my femininity. Without it, I felt naked and exposed. My curly hair was something that made me stand out and people always commented on it.
“I couldn’t bear to look in the mirror either, when I look at myself I saw somebody who looks underweight and unwell.
"I asked my partner Darren to put some fabric up in the bedroom to hide the mirrors; I didn’t want to look at myself.”
Hannah built her strength and mental wellbeing through regular exercise ‘even if it was just a walk’ and she also blogged her way through it too to help raise awareness.
“I was so active and healthy before my diagnosis, I think it shows this can happen to anyone. Obviously there were a lot of times when I was tired or not feeling well so I had to readjust. If I could only go for a walk, I went for a walk. It’s good to get outside see different things and get fresh air – it keeps you sane because I could focus my energy on something positive.
“After I was diagnosed, I didn’t want to tell my friends and family what was really going on because I would get upset and they would too. I started the blog and it helped to me get everything off my chest. I also wanted to reach out to other people who might be going through the same thing, and that’s why I wanted it to be real.”
Thankfully Hannah’s treatment was a success and now she is keen to help others and give back to the charity after being supported by a CLIC Sargent social worker who provides practical, emotional and financial support.
“My CLIC Sargent social worker Laura came to see me at Barts when I was doing my second cycle of chemo. Laura was always at the end of the phone, she was really encouraging and positive and it meant a lot to know she was there for me.
“She gave me a CLIC Sargent grant after I told her about the expensive car parking fees and it really helped. She would always let me know if there was any support groups going or any day outs coming up and even if I didn’t go it was so good to know it’s there.”
Patsy, best known for her role as Bianca in EastEnders said:
"Meeting Hannah and hearing her story was so inspiring. I’m proud to be part of this campaign because it’s so important people know what living with cancer is really like for young people like Hannah.
“I think we can all learn from Hannah and her positivity and I hope other young people in a similar situation read about her story and see how you can thrive, not just survive following a cancer diagnosis.”
Kate Lee, Chief Executive at CLIC Sargent, said: “Together with young people like Hannah and amazing supporters like Patsy, we are exposing the hidden costs of cancer and talk about what life really looks like for them. This campaign gives young people the power to explore body image and mental health issues and tell it how it is, unfiltered.”
To find out more about Looking after yourself or follow CLIC Sargent on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to find out more about #NoFilter4Cancer campaign. To find out more about Hannah’s visit her blog or follow her on Instagram.