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A 22-year-old student who is undergoing chemotherapy after she was diagnosed with cancer is now raising awareness about misdiagnosis on social media and has decide to ditch wigs to 'share her struggle' with other young people battling the disease.
Olivia Smith, from Southampton, has spoken out about being dismissed by medics over pains in her chest which later turned out to be cancer.
The fashion communication student first realised something was wrong when she was on holiday in Menorca and suffered with chest pains after a sip of alcohol. Once home, she visited her GP who told her that although there was no association between chest pains and drinking booze, she should still avoid drinking.
The pains continued for a few months before she went back to her GP and was told she inflamation of the cartilage in the rib cage - a condition called costochondritis.
But a few weeks later Olivia noticed lumps on her neck and made yet another appointment to see her doctor. The GP referered her to a lymphoma specialist, who carried out an x-ray and discovered she had Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a type of lymphoma that is generally believed to result from white blood cells of the lymphocyte kind.
Now, Olivia must go through several grueling rounds of chemotherapy but has chosen to bravely document her journey on social media to raise awareness.
Olivia said: "On the day I went to the lymphoma clinic I had an X-ray that day. It became pretty clear that I did have cancer because the X-ray showed several growths.
"The weeks that followed were full of a lot of 'why me' tears; I would fill my drive to work with plans of how I would tell my family the news and mostly worrying about how ugly I would look with no hair.
"This was the point where I realised why people are secretive about things like this. It is obviously so reassuring to know I have such a huge support network, but I began to feel like an alien.
"It is not until something of this nature happens to you that you learn the right way to act towards a person going through it.
"People want to be there for you, and that is so kind, but to be so upset that I actually end up consoling them over the situation is frustrating and you leave the conversation feeling down yourself.
"I have now replaced the 'why me' tears with a strong trust in my journey; I have fully come to terms with the fact I am battling cancer at age twenty-two and it truly has taught me so much.
"Yes, I feel like cancer has stolen a year of my life. But, Hodgkin's is curable. I am being cured; my recent scans show no remaining tumours after only two cycles of Adriamycin bleomycin vinblastine dacarbazine (ABVD) chemotherapy.
"I still have to go through the full six months of chemo to ensure that they have got it all. But I believe everything happens for a reason. That reason being I will grab life with both hands after all of this.
"I believe my future would have been entirely different had I not been faced with this at such a young age. I used to be so comfortably numb, but now I feel everything with such passion."
With six months of chemo ahead of her, Olivia has decided that she doesn't want to have to cover up and wear a wig and is hoping she can be an inspiration to others.
"I have wasted so much time looking for wigs, trips to London, entering competitions, endless meetings and conversations with The Little Princess Trust trying to find the perfect wig," she said.
"But one day I realised why am I trying to cover up the fact that I am fighting the hardest battle of my life so far?
"It took me a long time to realise that cancer isn't something to be embarrassed of, but actually a battle to be proud I am fighting.
"I feel so much more confident now that I am not trying to conceal my cancer, and I am helping so many other young people fighting cancer to feel the same.
"To know that sharing my struggle is helping and inspiring so many others has made me realise that there was a reason for all of this; and my purpose is to share and spread awareness.
"I also rely heavily on my family to look after me, I have had to learn to let go of my independence a little and be driven around and cooked for."
Olivia believes that sharing her journey with others online has helped her to come to terms with having cancer at such a young age.
"The mental aspect of this has been the hardest part by a mile. This week I feel I've made the most progress I've made yet so far," she said.
"Sometimes you don't have to step forward to make progress, sometimes sitting still is the best progress.
"The truth so many people miss is that happiness doesn't start with a relationship, with a degree or with the perfect job. Happiness is realising what a precious privilege it is to be alive.
"Sometimes there will be sadness and struggle in our lives but we must realise the beauty, we must keep putting one foot in front of the other because you never know what's around the bend."
"Make peace with your past and don't let it spoil the present. I am lucky enough to be given another chance at life. I have fallen apart and oh boy am I putting the pieces back together differently."
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