During her Bronze DofE, fourteen-year-old Bebe was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and subsequently had 6 months of chemotherapy to treat it. During her treatment Bebe still managed to do her Bronze qualifying expedition and has gone on to achieve her Bronze Award despite the additional challenges at this time in her life.
“I signed up to do my DofE because I’d heard so many great stories and I loved being outdoors, but by December that year I started to feel unwell and by April I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. I had so much planned for the summer it was disappointing knowing how much I was going to have to miss out on. I’d been looking forward to my Bronze expedition but it was looking unlikely that I would be able to do it.”
“When I was first diagnosed I felt pretty angry that it hadn’t been picked up sooner, but it did show me how this type of cancer, even though it’s one of the most common in young people, wasn’t well known enough. Because I was so frustrated by this, I decided to set up an Instagram account to share my progress and raise awareness of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I’d share regular updates, like showing people what an ECG (electrocardiogram) was like. It was a nice way of keeping everyone updated with my progress and letting people know I cared that they supported me.”
“My netball team were also amazing by sending messages of support and making donations. It felt important to raise awareness of Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the team as they’re the age group that needs to be aware of the symptoms. While I was having treatment, I also left hospital to take part in Race for Life, going straight back once the race was over. Within our group we raised £12,000 for charity, which was an amazing achievement! In the future I want to focus on raising awareness of Hodgkin’s lymphoma – I want people to know they don’t have to raise money, just an understanding of the symptoms and the treatment goes a long way.”
“I remember going to see my DofE group when they were on their practice expedition. Because I hadn’t really seen any of my friends since starting the treatment. At this point I was really poorly and not my usual self; seeing them gave me a boost and motivated me to try and do the qualifying expedition. It was very touch and go but the day before my qualifying expedition I decided I could do it. I was right in the middle of treatment at this point, and I think I was still processing the fact I was having treatment so it was a good distraction.”
“When it came to my expedition, my Leaders adapted it to make sure I could do it. I showed them that I could navigate well, and I would meet my mum at checkpoints so could rest whenever I needed to, then I would meet my teammates in the evening to help put up the tents and cook before I went home to sleep and heading back first thing in the morning. I also did a project on researching nature; like tree bark and leaves which all contributed towards my expedition aim. These adaptions meant that I didn’t feel missed out because I was there for all the important parts and still felt part of the group.”
“It will mean so much to have that Bronze certificate in my hands! It’s so nice that I managed to do it all and overcame the challenges to reach the finish. It’s nice to have the reward because I did it, and not just because I had the cancer. To someone starting their DofE who has any health worries or concerns, I’d say just go for it if you can. The Leaders are there to support you, they adapted it so I could do it, and I felt so much happier from being involved in it – it gave me a boost when I needed it most.”
Since completing her Bronze DofE, Bebe has now signed up for Silver Award and is excited to see where her DofE journey will go next.