A Fife student who was diagnosed with lymphoma aged just 20 says her Christmas wish this year is for more post-cancer support for survivors.
Natalia Bartolome, who is a student at the University of St Andrews, is supporting a national charity campaign over the festive season aimed at helping more people affected by the UK’s fifth most common cancer.
A cancer of the lymphatic system, around 125,000 people are living with lymphoma in the UK. It is also the most common cancer in young people.
National charity the Lymphoma Association hopes its Christmas Wish campaign will help increase awareness of the signs and symptoms of lymphoma, raise vital funds for its work supporting people affected by a lymphoma diagnosis, and promote its message that no one should face their lymphoma alone.
Natalia was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in 2015 and, having undergone chemotherapy, she is now in remission and determined to do what she can to support the campaign.
She said: “Initially, my Christmas wish would be for people to know what lymphoma actually is.
“After all, when I was first diagnosed, I had never heard of lymphoma and I had not realised it was a form of cancer.
“However, having gone through the entire ‘cancer journey’, I would wish for more support post-cancer. I found life after cancer terribly hard to adapt to and felt completely lost at times.
“There is an expectation to continue with life as normal once you get the all clear but people often forget that’s when you need the most support because what you faced over the past however many months hits you in the face.”
“I wish for people to understand that cancer is an on-going process and survivors may be ‘happy’ once they enter remission, but they need help to rebuild their lives fully.”
Natalia, who has written about her experiences in a blog entitled ‘Hodgkin’s lymphoma, my story’, has also contributed to resources aimed at teenagers and young adults with lymphoma, including the Lymphoma Association’s young person’s guide to lymphoma.
She continued: “The Lymphoma Association provided me with clear, concise information that made sense to me and put me at ease with the uncertainty that I was facing — this is why I am so keen to help write information booklets for others because believe me, the internet is a scary place to go looking for answers.”
She added that this Christmas she will be spending time with loved ones and hopes others living with a cancer diagnosis won’t let their illness overshadow the festive period.
“For me, Christmas means spending time with loved ones and taking the time to appreciate each other,” she said.
“I would say to others, don’t let Christmas become invisible in the midst of cancer.
“Take the time to step back, observe what’s happening around you and enjoy the festive period for all the love it gathers and shares.”
People can support the campaign in a variety of ways including donating to the Christmas Wish Appeal and getting involved in festive fundraising activities.
More information is available at www.lymphomas.org.uk/Christmas.