CHRISTMAS markets are a great day out and are usually filled with food and booze.
This was a normal amount for the then 22-year-old, but that night, he became violently unwell.
At first, he thought nothing of it, believing he may have picked up a bug from the glass and that he was no longer able to handle his booze.
But just months later, he was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin lymphoma – a type of blood cancer.
It’s an illness that can develop at any age, but mostly affects people between the ages of 20 and 40 years old and those over 75, the NHS states.
Now 26, Ryan, originally from Lancashire, is telling his story in order to make others aware of the unusual symptoms.
After that night at the Christmas market in late 2018, Ryan’s health declined.
The procurement and transport professional was suffering from night sweats and had also lost over two and a half stone.
Blood tests found his white blood cell count was high and, after he started suffering “excruciating” back pain, a PET scan and biopsies were undertaken, which revealed the extent of his condition.
He was diagnosed in Easter 2019, and was told the blood cancer was in his bone marrow, hips, spine, neck and spleen.
“I instantly thought the worst,” he said.
“But I was happy in a way because I finally knew why I felt so ill – there was actually a reason.
“My girlfriend Jess accepted it really quickly too. We both had suspicions that it was going to be cancer, but we didn’t let on to each other. In a way that prepared us.
“Knowing the first sign came from an innocent few drinks was really strange. I had not reacted like that [to beer] before so now I have been through everything, it all makes sense.
“Doctors and nurses were exceptional in explaining it all, and said to me that I had been diagnosed with a cancer that was very much treatable with the aim of curing me so I did feel better about it then. The fact I was also to be treated on a specialist ward for younger people also settled my nerves.
“I did still have worries about how the treatment would make me feel and how those side effects would escalate as I went through the chemo.”
He had six months of treatment and in January 2020, he was given the all clear.
But check-ups in June and November the following year found irregularities in his red blood cell count.
Ryan then had to have four biopsies and his worst nightmare was realised when his cancer was confirmed to have returned – this time in his spleen and neck.
He was scheduled for more chemotherapy in February 2021 and a stem cell transplant in June that year.
He said: “It was summer so it was nice and sunny out and my mates were all out watching the Euros, so I fell into a bad mindset. Once I was in that, I struggled to get out of it when I was feeling rough.
“I’d also gone from seeing Jess every day to not being able to see her for a month. It was the longest we’ve been apart since we met. I FaceTimed her when I could and it was great to see her face, but sometimes I didn’t even have the energy to do that.
“I was unable to go to the gym as normal, was not able to get out with friends and colleagues, and had to cancel holidays. These were all big parts of my life and things I looked forward to. To have them taken away was really frustrating and upsetting and I often worried I would never get those parts of my life back.
“Because I felt terrible, I started to realise that hospital was the best place for me to be. After that, things started to feel better – I knew that I’d be out soon and that kept me going.”
Ryan said the support he has received from the Teenage Cancer Trust has been invaluable.
He praised nurse Jenny and youth support coordinator Cathy for being on hand to keep him company and provide support.
He said: “The Teenage Cancer Trust staff got to know Jess and I really well [during the first round of treatment]. This helped both of us as I felt comfortable around them and I had new people to chat to when I was in, but it also meant Jess knew I was in safe hands when she couldn’t be there, and she worried less.
“I got to know them almost like friends instead of hospital staff and we had a good chat and laugh whenever I was in.”
Ryan was finally given the all-clear for the second time in July 2021 and had one firm goal in mind – proposing to Jess, who he has been with since meeting at uni in 2015.
The pair are now planning to get married in Summer 2023.
Following his ordeal, he is backing the charity’s latest partnership with fundraising platform Omaze – which is giving someone the chance to win a £2,000,000 villa in Spain and £250,000 in cash.
The winner of the latest Omaze Million Pound House Superdraw will get the keys to a three-storey, four-bedroom luxury villa in Marbella, with vital funds raised going to Teenage Cancer Trust.
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