What I hadn't told anyone yet: my periods had also stopped. I didn't understand, because I really couldn't be pregnant. Just before the Christmas holidays I decided to tell my parents everything. I hadn’t told them before, because I didn't want them to worry.
My parents were very shocked. Immediately we made an appointment with the family doctor. He thought I had pneumonia. I had to take medicine three times a day, but it didn't do anything for me. A week later the doctor decided to do a blood test. The next morning we would get the results. But that same evening we got a call: we had to rush to the hospital in Breda. My gut feeling immediately told me that I would have to stay there for a few nights. I packed a small bag with snacks, things they don't have in the hospital.
At the hospital, they made a scan of my lungs. But they also saw that I had lost a lot of weight. My gut feeling came true. I was admitted to the hospital. On day three, I was tested for coronavirus. It turned out to be positive. That meant a week of isolation. Brilliant.
After two weeks in hospital, we got the results of the scan: there was a tumor somewhere between my lungs and diaphragm. At that point they didn't know yet that it was cancer.
The doctors did another blood test. This time it was sent to the Sophia Children's Hospital. The Sophia also recommended a CT scan of my lungs. After two hours we were called: we had to go directly to the Princess Máxima Center. 'That hospital for cancer?!, I asked...' Everyone was completely in shock. That was the first time I saw my father cry. My mother and I were taken to the Máxima by ambulance.
All sorts of things were going through my head. What had I done wrong? Is it hereditary? Did I perhaps take the wrong vaccination? But it turned out to be purely bad luck.
I had to stay for a week. A week full of tests with surgery at the end to place the port-a-cath. Fortunately, Amy, my wonderful child life specialist, explained everything to me perfectly. That week I slept very badly. Because of the treatment, sometimes I didn't fall asleep until about 3:30. On Monday, after all the tests, the results came: I had Hodgkin lymphoma. Again, I was in shock and everyone was sad.
During the first chemotherapy we were allowed to go home, but because we live quite far from the Máxima we decided to stay in the Ronald McDonald House for a while first. That is near the Máxima. We would be close by in case something happened.
That first course of treatment was tough. Three chemos in five days. I thought I would feel pain, but I was mostly very nauseous and tired. After one chemo, I slept for two or three hours straight after.
The yellow banana hat
During the second round of chemotherapy, my hair fell out. I touched my hair and just pulled the tufts out. I had never seen my head without hair... Did I have an egg head? Block head? At one point we did have to cut my hair off. I had braids and by now looked like an octopus with tentacles on its head.
My child life specialist and I had chosen a hat: A yellow one with a banana on it. I wore it for most of the treatment. After a while, I had to accept that I was bald, just like other children in the hospital. No one would judge me. That slowly made me feel comfortable enough to walk around even without a hat.
At the end of the second course of treatment, I suddenly fainted. My potassium turned out to be too low. I turned out to have rotavirus. Everything came out. I was totally dehydrated. That meant that I was admitted to the Máxima Centerfor the second time. Fortunately, I was allowed to go home again after four days.
The last mile weighs the hardest
The results of my second PET and MRI scan were good. More than 50% of the cancer cells had disappeared. So I had a chance of surviving this. Instead of radiation, five heavy chemo treatments followed. Five. Of three days' duration. I didn't know how to survive five chemos. It was too much. It made me very scared.
My friends promised to come visit me to talk about it. That helped, but it was still tough. I was so nauseous, threw up so much and was so hot. Nothing tasted good and I slept as much as a baby. I felt like I had run a marathon. And that continued for a whole week.
I had the last chemo on July 18. To celebrate, I went to IKEA to eat French fries and Swedish meatballs. A bad decision, because the chemo made my stools very hard. But it was my last chemo, so I thought it would be okay. Not quite. I couldn't poop for three days. In the end I got an enema and was in a lot of pain.
For other children
Now the chemos are over. I can eat normally again and after the summer holidays I can go back to school. Not full-time right away, but three half-days. I am happy that I have passed and can start the third year of high school with the same class. I only take a pill to prevent infections. And four times a year I have to return to the Máxima for check-ups.
To other children in such a situation I would say: don't be afraid, be strong. Watch what you eat. Not too many hamburgers and pizza, but healthy things. Enough fruits and vegetables help your immune system. And if you can't sleep, do meditation exercises. I got that tip from my child life specialist. It helped me a lot. And even if you are tired: keep moving. Don't think that people don't understand you. They may not know what it really feels like themselves, but don't blame them. I am very grateful that I am alive today. That I am not dead because of this disease. That I can live, day to day.’