“Cancer won’t stop my education!” Emily’s story

I make no apology for this blog being a little longer than usual as Emily is a young lady I admire greatly! At the age of 16 she was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, but has not let cancer get in the way of living her life. Along with all the things young people do, Emily runs her own website to work with other young people around the world. What I find personally refreshing about Emily, is that she is forever smiling, and will not let cancer stop her from achieving her goals. We tend to assume that it is mostly older people that are affected by cancer but in this piece we are given an insight into some of the issues that younger people can face. Thanks so much Emily for writing this lovely post!

Emily ClarkThis blog is very topical one for the time of year- Back to School.

This time of year is fraught and pretty tense for lots of people- whether it be for mums struggling to drag their kids to school at the beginning of term, it be for teens anxious for the year of hard work ahead. Really, for all concerned it’s a hard time of year, what with the realisation of summer has go away for another year.

For me it’s been a bit of a double back to school, because though I popped into school for revision and welshbacc lessons regularly last term, I didn’t have a timetable or anything. So this year I’m returning to school properly, and will be having proper lessons for the first time in 10 months. I’m so glad to be back in school of course and working towards my future, of course- but the past week has been very hard emotionally (though A level chemistry is too!) It’s been hard because I’m not doing what I should be doing now. Hard because I should have 4 AS levels to my name. Hard because I don’t know what to think about all of this. Simply hard because it’s a hard thing to go through and annoying to be having to deal with it!

I’ve said it before, but I’m a firm believer in the fact that cancer isn’t the worst thing about cancer. Consequences are. After all the actual illness and pain of having cancer has been temporary (for myself at least) yet the consequences for me not going to school, not doing my 1st year of A levels as proving to be really hard emotionally, even more so than the actual having cancer.

The thing that really bugged about returning to ‘normal life’ after having cancer was that as soon as I found out I was in remission, I was expected to back in school within 24hrs and be ‘ok’ straight away- I felt as if people were seeing me as if I’d just had a cold. (Albeit a rather extended cold) Though I didn’t want to be treated like fine china, I also wanted bit of consideration. At the time when I first went back to school I as still very tired, still couldn’t walk far. Let me tell you something, Chemo brain is not a myth! I had days where I struggled to watch the telly, due to brain-is-at-drug-and-thought capacity-itis!

The one thing that cancer has given me is the realisation that what I really want to do with my life is medicine. I’ve always wanted to do something with science, but was always daunted by the prospect of trying to get into medicine, and a bit intimidated. Looking back I think I think I was scared at the prospect of pinning all my hopes on medicine, and I was secretly terrified of failure. A least now I know the AMAZING work doctors do, and how it’s what I want to do.

The thing about medicine, is it places so much more pressure on grades and directly relates to the other issue of having cancer and being in school- falling behind, and resitting the year. ‘To resit or not to resit, that is the question!’ Most people have a firm opinion on what is the best thing to relate to it, and I know people who have done either option. The idea is is that by resitting you will probably get better grades through taking that time to recover, and get those grades by not rushing through catch up work, whereas by carrying on you get to stay with your year group- and no one can argue that, that really is the ideal option! What I’m doing- two a levels in a year, might come back to bite me in the bum, but for now it’s the right thing to be doing. I just love my classes from year 12 really, and want to stick with them through year 13. Really I think that for the sake of your mental health, you really need to want to act to your decision as far as school goes, because you have to live with that decision, and LIVE the changes that decision implicate.

Emily Clark 1

Most people who’ve been through similar experiences to me, will empathise in the fact we all have at least one family member/friend who fancies themselves as some sort of self-help guru, and has some amazingly cheesy wisdom, that you have to sit through, which goes along the lines of “you’ve been through so much, you beat/survived/lived through cancer, and that’s the main thing to be proud of, it’s the biggest/best/most awesome achievement of anyone your age, you’re amazing/an inspiration etc etc” Much as listening to the above can be the most irritating thing ever, and make you want to roll your eyes and say that you still want qualifications…..they are actually right! Beating, being treated for, or even encountering cancer is a massive achievement. So even if you take it with a pinch of salt, and find it hard to accept (I still do) listen to them- always take a compliment! It is a hard thing to accept and I’m still not there, but really qualifications are always there to be gained, but your life is not (so cheesy!) So much of what I write is kind of hypocritical because the things that I know in my heart, are the truth- i.e. school is a secondary worry at this point, but in my head I find that really hard to think, so don’t think I’m some know-it-all teen…much less a teens trying to learn from outsiders that have a much more balanced perspective.

So let’s wrap it up, I’m not going to talk any more…..don’t want to bore you, seeing as this is a guest blog!

Three things to note when thinking about back to school;

  1.   Whoever you are (mum of a first time schooler, GCSE student, A level student, someone off to college), back to school isn’t that scary…
  2. Chemo brain is real! Bear with anyone who has had cancer treatment recently- we can be a bit slow, but haven’t lost our brains, just our marbles (and hair) and are trying to get them back, promise!
  3. Keep the cheesy mantra in mind- they may annoy the heck out of you, but are generally true-ish, and come from those who love you!

Thanks for reading this, people of Chris’ Cancer Community!

If you fancy reading more of my blogs, want to know more, or want to get involved, check us out at www.remissionpossible.org.uk , or connect with us on facebook via www.facebook.com/remissionpossible2014 or on twitter using @remissionpos

Hope to get involved with you all!


Em xx

Please take time to check out this incredibly inspiring video about Emily.


  1. You were right – awesome thought provoking blog post. Thanks Emily for sharing your story. Thanks Chris your blog continues to make me think! (And question)

    • Thanks Karen! There are times we forget the very unique issues that younger people face when dealing with a cancer diagnosis. It is difficult to live life in someone else’s shoes, but hopefully I can prompt some thoughts. The sharing of experience is a powerful thing, both giving and receiving! Something I always try to encourage through my site.

  2. How much I share Emily;s thoughts, she will do well as a Doctor and I wish her the best of luck with her exams from what I read of her she will be fantastic and we are very lucky to have her, God Bless you Emily, I have had the same cancer but I am 75years and had had good health until 3 years ago I understand how she feels because I have been there, thank you Emily for sharing with us . Georgine x

    • Hi Georgine. Emily tells her story well, and it is so inspiring. It is why I love facilitating my site, so that we can all share our experiences and learn. What it does show us is that we all face very different issues when dealing with a cancer diagnosis. I have found that there are times when young people get forgotten. I’m doing my best to ensure that this doesn’t happen.

  3. Lovely blog/ article Emily, and very good luck in your studies and in the new normal. You will have such insight as a doc. Thanks Chris. I tried to convert some pounds into kgs yesterday, (had chemo for BC) so completely get the chemo brain comments! I’ve been under feeding the dogs accidentally for two weeks! Thankfully not by much!
    Living life with the consequences of cancer leads us to devise strategies, doesn’t it? If one of those is always using an internet converter for kgs to ibs so be it!! X

  4. Thanks for your comments Daisy, it is a really inspiring piece! You are right about the chemo brain thing, and we certainly do devise strategies. Even though my chemo was a few years back now, my memory is atrocious! Great news you found out about the dogs at this stage Enjoy your week!

  5. Lovely blog to read Chris and Emily. Also great advice about thanking friends etc when I get THE talk! I smile but inwardly think yeah yeah…
    Hoping your studies go well Emily
    Love Dawn

  6. So pleased you enjoyed the piece Dawn. I was delighted that Emily agreed to write a piece, as my experience has shown me that teenage patient’s needs tend to get forgotten. Many problems they face are unique, and many will require specialist help, which isn’t really around currently.

    Having said that I can see more awareness now particularly since the sad passing of Stephen Sutton.

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