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Raring to go after recovering from cancer

When I ran the Cancer Research UK Race for Life I had a sign on my back that read: ‘I am two weeks in remission.’

The response I received was amazing. People were hugging me — it was a fantastic way of getting back out there after having treatment for so long.

I took part in the Brighton 5K Run with my mum and two sisters, which I ran and walked a bit of the way. It was exhausting because I lost all of my muscle strength and felt physically sick during treatment.

That was in 2010, and was the first event I took part in to raise funds and awareness of cancer.

I went to see a physiotherapist in March 2009 for shoulder pain that I had suffered for six months, and she discovered a lump in my neck.

Everything then moved very quickly. I went to see my GP, who referred me to Eastbourne District General Hospital immediately, and by 6pm that day I discovered I had lymphoma. I was then transferred to the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, where I learned I had Hodgkin’s lymphoma and began chemotherapy.

The diagnosis was a real shock to my family and me, and it was a gruelling experience. I was in hospital for two weeks at a time and received chemotherapy as an outpatient.

I was given the all-clear after three months, but by January 2010 the cancer had returned, and I had to undergo more chemotherapy, a stem-cell harvest and radiotherapy. The second time was a lot worse because I knew what was coming. It also coincided with my GCSEs, so I had to take some modules in hospital.

I think the experience will help me in my medical training because I understand what it is like being a patient. As a teenage patient, a lot of decisions are being made for you, and you are not entirely sure what is going on; I think it will be useful to understand that as a medical student and doctor.

I understand how, when you are in hospital, the five minutes you get with a doctor are such an important part of your day. I also have a good idea of what makes a good and bad bedside manner.

My work with Cancer Research UK has helped me to understand how a large charitable organisation works, which is useful knowledge. This year, I was involved in its new advertising campaign, for which I was photographed alongside other cancer survivors, charity volunteers and staff to form part of the first ‘C’ in its logo.

I wanted to give something back to cancer research, because it undoubtedly helped me. Whether it is running a race or telling my story, I hope I help someone. In turn, I hope my experience will assist me in becoming a good doctor.

Camilla Hickish is a Bristol medical student

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