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Olivia Smith

Olivia Smith

I had been following Olivia’s journey for quite some time through her inspirational blog ‘Twenty Second Year’. In fact it was one of the inspirations behind WinchestHer. I was so moved that someone so young had the balls to share with complete strangers such a raw and honest account of an incredibly personal and emotional experience.
Two days before her 22nd Birthday, whilst most young women are finalising plans and outfits on how best to celebrate, fashion lover and total style guru Olivia Smith was diagnosed with stage 2A Hodgkins Lymphoma; Cancer of the Lymph Nodes. According to Teenage Cancer Trust, six young people in the U.K, aged between 13 and 24, are told they have cancer everyday. Upon this discovery, Liv began an online search for these young adults referred to in the charities statistics. She wanted to read their stories, learn about their experiences, and find information which she could relate to. Sadly, she struggled to find anyone to connect with.
This Winchester Woman Wednesday, Olivia talks to us about why she started Twenty Second Year, how her experience with this horrendous disease has shaped the woman she has become, and how cancer has redefined her view on success and what happiness really means.

Olivia Smith

What was it that made you decide to blog about your experience with Hodgkins Lymphoma? 

When I was first diagnosed, one of the first things I wanted to do was search for other people going through the same. Mainly for reassurance, but also to make it feel more normal. I hadn’t ever known someone as young as myself go through cancer, I felt so alien. But I couldn’t find a blog which I felt I could relate too, everyones cancer stories felt so negative and scary which was everything I didn’t want to see at this point. So I began writing my own blog, it is such a good way to get your feelings out, but also to think that your experiences and positivity could be helping other people is such good therapy. It is so important to have something to focus your mind on too, on a day where I feel well enough I really enjoy sitting down with my laptop and a cup of tea to write a blog post.

How has sharing your story through your blog and social media has affected your journey?

Being able to connect with other people who have cancer has been so important to me, and if it wasn’t for social media I wouldn’t be able to connect with these people on a daily basis. Comparing experiences and side effects can make you feel so much better, as most people who are around me don’t understand the way I feel as they haven’t experienced chemo themselves (thank god).

Is there anything new you have learnt about yourself throughout this year? 

Sitting on the side lines and watching everything carry on without you is the worst part of this journey, but I know that this is the thing which will change me forever. Because I didn’t realise that I wasn’t a sitting on the side lines girl – “ruin is the road to transformation”.

What would be your one piece of advice for a young woman who has very recently received a cancer diagnosis?

One of the most daunting things for me was how this was going to shape my appearance; I wasn’t frightened of an operation, just the scar. I wasn’t worried about getting my PICC line, just how I was going to cover it. I wasn’t scared of any of the chemo side effects other than loosing my hair. I had to take control of how I was going to be perceived as a cancer patient and I ensured I still felt stylish and like me. I have so many tips and tricks on my instagram and blog for you to read about!

Whilst amazingly honest, your blog is also incredibly upbeat and positive. What has been the key to that positivity?

Yes I am 22 and I have cancer. Yes I feel like cancer has stolen a year of my life. But, Hodgkins is curable, I am being cured, my recent scans show no remaining tumours after only 2 cycles of ABVD. (I still have to go through the full 6 months of chemo to make sure none of the buggers ever come back.) But I believe everything happens for a reason. That reason being I will grab life with both hands after all this bollocks. So I suppose I feel thankful in some ways for my struggle.

How do you think this year has shaped your future?

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. I have completely readjusted my reference points to what I believe is success and happiness… In short, being happy and enjoying the now is all that matters.

You can follow Olivia’s journey on twentysecondyear.co.uk and follow her on Instagram at: oliviarosesmithx