My Story

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Jamie Harkin

I was a normal 12 year old child, who had just started secondary school in September 2010, and became a big brother to my angel of a little sister on Valentine’s Day 2011. From the January of that year, I had been running to and from the GP with “chest infection” after “chest infection,” until on May 4th, my mum Trisha demanded blood tests and a chest x-ray. I thought nothing of it, the only thing that was on my mind was getting to the end of the year so I could spend the summer playing Call of Duty with my big cousin. How naive I was! A week before the end of my first year at Lumen Christi, I was taken into Ward 6 at Altnagelvin due to the results of the blood tests and the chest x-ray. Two days and an MRI scan later , the doctor told me that i had a tumor in my chest, and that I would have to go to Belfast for treatment, but he assured me that everything would be alright. I remember everyone around me crying and being shocked at my seeming lack of a reaction, but in truth, I was just relieved to find out what was wrong with me, although I knew that my world was about to crash down around me, and that my naivety was the only thing stopping it. The inevitable was not long in coming true though. Before I knew it, I was going down for a biopsy, lumbar puncture and to have my line put in. I woke up later that night, in absolute agony from under my right arm, and my chest, due to the collapsed lung that ensued due to the biopsy. A dew days of recovery were allowed before i would start the chemo. I’m not going to get into how bad that night was. I don’t remember much of the next six months, due to being medicated almost into oblivion. After the chemo was finnished, and a few scans later, it was recommended that I undergo radiotherapy, as a “precautionary measure.” We gave in and agreed, deeming that anything that would help prevent the cancer coming back would be a good thing. The radiotherapy ended on 21st March 2012, and i had to wait around six months for a scan to confirm my remission. I remember the day that I heard those words come out of my doctor’s mouth, I couldn’t hold back the tears. We drove straight to the supermarket to buy a (few) bottles of champagne and there was a massive party to celebrate. I started back into third year in October 2012, but soon started becoming symptomatic again. I was unable to eat, becoming terribly lightheaded, severely nauseated in the morning and chronically tired. A CT scan in the January of 2013 confirmed that the cancer was back. This time was so much worse metally in the lead up to it, because I had two whole months to sit and worry and imagine it all in my head. I knew it would be so much worse than the first time, and the idea of that terrified me. As well as the stress, paranoia of infections, and the actual suffering of the treatment, I now had to deal with depression, which was only made worse by the steroids that were a “necessary part of treatment.” I went through four months of reintroductory chemo, but with infections and delays, it was late August before i was actually ready for the BEAM regime and Stem Cell Transplant. The first two weeks weren’t too bad, until the infections started to kick in. I was finally starting to come around when I had two brain haemorages due to dangerously low platelets. Eventually, I got out of hospital, and slowly started recovering. The next few months were spent recovering and preparing for the holiday of the lifetime in Florida with my parents, my little sister, who was then three, my little cousin my uncle and aunt. Finally the holiday arrived, and the first two weeks were the best of my life. I was running around every park and doing absolutely everything there was to do, until I took an infection at the start of the third week, which left me bedridden for the next few days. We finished one last park before we left, with me having to use a wheelchair due to how tired I was from the infection. Once we got back, I took another infection, and was bedridden for the next month or so. Afterwards, I began becoming symptomatic again. I was loosing weight, not eating, taking lightheaded, chronically tired, badly nauseated in the morning; all the symptoms I had previously. I was terrified, despite starting school again and seemingly getting my life back on track. Six months later, I flipped out after one too many negative results on a scan to try and find out what was wrong with me, as I was now 18 months post transplant, and was only getting worse. I punched all my symptoms into Google, and instantly found a possibe condition; Addison’s Disease, which causes the adrenal glands to not produce any epinephrine or cortisol. This eventually led to my diagnosis with hypothyroidism (Which was almost guaranteed due to treatment) and damaged central nervous system, which accounts for the Addison’s symptoms, thanks to my amazing endocronologist. I am currently on the first of three action plans to deal with these lifelong conditions, and am (hopefully) on my way upwards at long last! You’ve read my “journie”, now I want to help you through yours. I made this website to give anyone affected by cancer a place to ask questions about their treatment, voice any concerns they have, or even just have a chat with someone who has been there before.