05 Nov “My Dad is incredibly inspiring; he never let it get to him” – Victoria Armstrong’s Story
Volunteering with Bright Red was something I wanted to do because of my Dad. My Dad has got a severe form of blood cancer that is incurable. He was diagnosed before I was born, and I was 8 when it came back. His cancer is rare and, ultimately, incurable. For me, this was a big motivator to start supporting Bright Red, so that I help other young people in the same situation.
I didn’t really understand what was going on with my dad at the time. I believe helping Bright Red is a considerate way to help others, so they’re not going through what I did alone. I also thought there wasn’t as much of a young person perspective within Bright Red – I wanted to encourage change.
I remember my Dad’s second diagnosis quite vividly. My parents were waiting for results. I was suspicious that something was wrong. I don’t think they wanted to tell me because they didn’t really know themselves. I kept pestering saying: I know what’s going on. I had my suspicions that something wasn’t right. My Mam told me that my Dad was poorly again. That was really scary. I remember asking ‘Is Dad dying?’
Later, my dad stopped working and I was referred to as a young career. I don’t think I ever recognised that. I thought I was too young to be classed as a carer. We did everything together, he would take me to dancing class every night; he would do the school run; we would do the food shop together – because my Mam had to work and study. It definitely brought me closer to my Dad. I was used to him being there 24/7. I think it made it harder when he went into hospital.
He had immunotherapy treatment. It severely weakened his immune system. He was in hospital with common colds and coughs. There was a time he had a bad stomach bug and had to stay in hospital for days. My Mam was reluctant about taking me in, but I couldn’t understand why. It never bothered me going in and out of hospital, it bothered me more that I couldn’t see my dad.
The longest anyone has gone without relapsing is about 10 years. He got it when he was 21, he had it at 31 and now he’s turning 43 in January. My dad is incredibly inspiring! He never lets it get to him, despite the odds. However, the doctors say it’s a ‘when’ not an ‘if,’ It’s like a ticking time bomb. I don’t like the negativity around me, I feel extremely sad when I think about my dad getting poorly again.
We had friends and family around to support us, but no one my age. I know that adults didn’t want to talk to me about it. But, I had a lot of questions. Unfortunately, nobody wanted to sit down and explain it, so I got handed many books and resources. Even after reading them, I wanted to ask more as I didn’t understand. I would have found it difficult to ask my dad my questions.
I’m now part of ‘Making a Difference’(M.A.D) group where we are trying to organise a support system for people in the same circumstances. Although the buddy groups are given the resources by Bright Red to establish themselves, the groups are independent from the organisation.. The aim is to have safe space to talk to others who are experiencing similar issues. I am pleased I can contribute to a meaningful cause, I wish I had this kind of support when I was experiencing it.