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Young Lives vs Cancer

YOUNG LIVES VS CANCER: THESE ARE THEIR STORIES

To raise awareness that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, we asked three inspiring young people to share their experiences of facing cancer in childhood, and style their favourite #BeBoldGoGold jewellery look in support of Young Lives vs Cancer. Here are their incredible stories.

27 September 2021 Editor - H. Samuel

If you read our previous blog on Young Lives vs Cancer, then you’ll know this is a charity very close to our hearts. In support of #CCAM, we’ve been donating 10% of the profits of every heart product sold throughout September to drive awareness of Young Lives vs Cancer's #MoreThanMyCancer Awareness Month campaign, where you can wear your gold ribbon to raise funds to help these children and their families find the strength to face everything cancer throws at them.

And we’re not the only ones going bold with gold to help drive donations and raise awareness during this important month. Inspired by the courage they’ve shown in the face of cancer, we asked three of the young people the charity help how they would style their favourite H. Samuel #BeBoldGoGold look. From layering on the necklaces to stacking earrings, the jewellery they chose is a shining testament to their bravery, strength and spirit.

Which got us thinking, who better to tell the story of living with cancer than those that have been through it? These special young people took the time to answer questions about their journeys with cancer, and the result was a very frank and honest rendition of their unique experiences. Their accounts are heartfelt and candid all at the same time and they don’t shy away from talking about their own struggles and sadness. The girls chat openly about everything from their diagnosis and support network to their personal style and how wearing jewellery makes them feel.

Read on to discover Hollie, Ellie Mae and Aleesha’s incredible stories.

Young Lives vs Cancer

Meet Hollie

For her unique look, Hollie chose to combine classic hoops with layered chains for bold gold on gold style.

Hollie was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in October 2019, after a cancerous tumour was found on her pelvis. Her treatment involved a lot of travelling to and from hospital – each hour-long journey from her home near Blackburn was excruciatingly painful – and then a six month stay in a hotel. Now in remission and doing well, Hollie’s positivity and drive shines through as she plans for a bright future ahead of her, starting with university next year.

Immediately opening up about her mix of emotions, Hollie recalls the long road to diagnosis – a journey that started when she was only 16 and lasted nearly three years. She recounts, “At the time, as well as the natural fear at being told you have cancer, there was a small part of me that felt validated and somewhat relieved that for all those years that I had been in pain, there was a cause, and I hadn’t been wasting doctors time trying to get them to take me seriously.”

Thankfully now in remission, Hollie’s optimism is astounding. After 28 weeks of chemotherapy, 28 sessions of proton therapy and a year on from a six-hour surgical procedure, she describes Young Lives vs Cancer as her “guiding light” throughout her ordeal. She talks fondly of her social worker who helped her through the dark time, and even managed to find positive aspects in her experience. “Nickie spent hours upon hours on a daily basis talking me through the different ways I could spend my time in hospital and inspiring me to turn something truly devastating into an opportunity to help others in the same position.”

One thing Hollie loves is fashion. Describing her personal style as “preppy”, looking smart and put together helps her combat the “funny looks” when out with her walking aid, and jewellery, she says, plays a big part in that. “Whether it’s a night out or a shopping spree, being well dressed with beautiful jewellery gives me the confidence I thought that I had lost when my hair fell out.”

The subject of personal style resonates with Hollie and it’s clearly something she feels passionate about. Comparing it to the beauty and strength of the ocean, she says she finds “its duality between peace and power really inspiring”, which is something she strives to represent in how she dresses. Hollie could talk for hours about how empowering it is for her to express herself through style, in short though, she says, “it feels like the ultimate freedom.”

Young Lives vs Cancer

Meet Ellie Mae

For her layered look, Ellie Mae opted to stack bold gold chains for a style that’s bang on trend.

At the tender age of four, Ellie Mae was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, after her auntie – a doctor’s receptionist – noticed symptoms while she was on holiday. She was taken to hospital in Bristol before being transferred to the Royal Marsden where she continued treatment as an outpatient. She developed steroid induced osteopenia, which meant she was unable to walk for 14 months. During the later stages of intensive chemotherapy – a treatment that lasted for over two years – Ellie Mae also contracted E. coli and pneumonia. Despite it all, she was declared cancer free in 2014.

Although too young to understand her diagnosis, Ellie Mae vividly remembers how poorly the needles and medications made her. She casts her mind back: “I had to be careful about what I could eat and drink – sometimes, I wasn't allowed to eat at certain times due to my medicines which wasn't fun.” The long road to recovery was not an easy one: she lost her hair, she was wheelchair bound and to keep her safe from infections, she was kept in isolation for long periods of time which meant she missed out on lots of school with her friends. Despite her traumatic experience, Ellie Mae’s youthful charm and cheerful personality is hard to miss. She fondly recalls, “I used to like racing the doctors on my trike in the hospital corridors at weekends.”

Now cancer-free for seven years, Ellie Mae is 13 and in good spirits. She’s thankful to Young Lives vs Cancer for helping her parents with a Home from Home (one of 10 houses run by the charity where families can stay for free when a child is being treated at a nearby hospital). She clearly remembers the incredible support they received as a family, “We had a Young Lives vs Cancer nurse at my hospital who organised my treatment with my consultant and was always there for advice and help.”

When it comes to style, Ellie Mae’s zest for life and bubbly character shines through. Inspired by Japanese anime and streetwear, she always has fun with fashion, and while some daughters might opt for the ‘mini me’ look, she’s proud to claim that she has better fashion sense than her mum. For Ellie Mae, style empowers her to seize this day, and the next. She bravely states, “Dressing up makes me feel alive”, and jewellery, she says “is the perfect finishing touch.”

Young Lives vs Cancer

Meet Aleesha

For her fashion forward look, Aleesha went for classic hoops to complement the heart necklace – her favourite piece.

In October 2019, Aleesha was losing weight, became very pale and had unexplained bruises. Her mum booked a doctor’s appointment but a few days before, a rash appeared and within three days Aleesha was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia – she was 13 years old. Before her treatment started, she was given the option to have the tissues from an ovary frozen – a decision any child should not have to make – but she decided against it as wasn’t guaranteed the leukaemia hadn’t reached it. Aleesha paints a candid picture of her experience and her utter bravery and courage comes across in her account.

On the morning of her diagnosis, Aleesha had a blood test and, afterwards, she went to school as normal. It was only a few hours later that the doctor called asking them to go to hospital as soon as possible – the dread really set in when the surgery called again, while they were driving there, to find out where they were. She sums up the paralysing fear in one powerful and poignant sentence: “It felt like my whole life ground to a halt that day.”

Her journey had only just started. Seven weeks of chemotherapy ensued. After a brief respite at home, Aleesha was back in hospital for another ten weeks of intense chemo and intensive care to protect her from infections. It wasn’t until March 2020, that she started to see the light at the end of a very dark tunnel, “I received a life-saving bone marrow transplant in Bristol”, that together with recovery time meant a further six weeks in hospital. It was thanks to Clare, Aleesha’s social worker and Jean’s House in Southampton – the Home from Home – that her worries were eased. “Young Lives vs Cancer supported myself and my family by allowing my parents and siblings to stay close by so we could spend time together.”

Now 15, Aleesha sees style as an outward expression of her self-identity, which is something she is having fun redefining following her illness, “I'm still trying to find my personal style, my life has changed so much since cancer and I'm enjoying experimenting with it.” But it’s jewellery that really makes a difference to her. She talks affectionately about the effect the H. Samuel pieces had on her: “Dressing in the jewellery made me feel really special. It's so beautiful.” Her favourite piece is the gold heart necklace – a shining accolade to Aleesha’s bravery and courage.

Be bold, go gold (or silver) at H. Samuel

If you want to raise funds to help shape a future where all children with cancer and their families have everything they need to get through it and thrive, not just survive, you can shop the full range of heart jewellery at H. Samuel today*. Plus, share your #HSStyle to win a £200 H. Samuel gift card. Simply, post a snap, video or reel on your Instagram or TikTok, tag us @HSamuelJeweller and make sure you use the hashtag #HSStyle. Every month we'll choose our favourite look. Good luck!

*T&Cs apply.