SOMERSET young cancer survivor is helping to raise awareness of the disease in teenagers and young adults.

Ross Long, now 26, was diagnosed with B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma in July 2013, aged 16.

The illustrator who lives in Brixton in South London, is sharing his story for the first-ever Teenagers and Young Adult Cancer Awareness Month.

Ross, originally from Clapton in the Mendip Hills in Somerset, can recall the moment he was given the devastating news that “you couldn’t ever envisage receiving at 16”.

He said: “Everything kind of went blurry. I couldn’t hear the doctors saying it was aggressive but treatable, though thankfully my parents were listening.

“It felt like someone had got the remote and pressed fast-forward by mistake. Everything around me was imploding.”

Ross first noticed something was wrong the morning of his last GCSE exam, having woken up with a stomach ache he put down to something he’d eaten or cramps. During his exam, he was sick twice, and suspected he had a bug.

Ross managed to attend Glastonbury festival later that week, but things soon worsened.

An ultrasound revealed what was thought to be an intussusception, where the intestine slides into an adjacent part of the intestine and can often block food or fluid from passing through, and Ross was told by his medical team that they needed to do some assessments before deciding on the next steps.

Somerset County Gazette: Young cancer survivor, Ross (pictured in the middle) shares story to raise awareness of the disease and its effects.Young cancer survivor, Ross (pictured in the middle) shares story to raise awareness of the disease and its effects. (Image: Teenagers and Young Adults with Cancer)

When Ross arrived at the hospital, doctors told him they had found a tumour during the operation, had done a biopsy on it and it was cancerous.

He quickly began gruelling chemotherapy treatment, while also receiving other painful medical interventions like lumbar punctures and experienced several debilitating side effects as a result which not only had a huge physical impact, but mental, too.

He said: “I didn’t feel too bad until after the first couple of rounds of chemo. But after that, I began being sick maybe 20, 30 times a day and even the smell of food would send me to the toilet. 

“You just want to sleep all the time, to have your eyes closed and battle through it.”

When treatment finished, Ross said that he was still suffering heavily from its effects, including damage to his kidneys, and while regular follow-up appointments and scans provided an opportunity to ask his medical team questions, in the run-up to them he’d be consumed by the worry of his cancer returning.

Ross explained: “On paper, I had been cured, but I constantly felt like I was dealing with the fears of relapse and the unprocessed trauma and it’s still something I’m battling now.”

Ross is working with Teens and Young Adults with Cancer (TYAC) and echoes their calls for any young person worried about their health to see a doctor straight away.

He knows how important it is to get checked out quickly by a medical professional when something feels wrong and advises any young people that are worried about their health to do the same.

He said: “The doctors told me they caught it at just the right time, before the tumour grew too much."

On timing of the disease being diagnosed on time he said : “You are not wasting anybody’s time. They’d much rather you come in and be seen and make sure things are right.”

Ashley Ball-Gamble, CEO of TYAC, said: “We would like to say a huge thank you to Ross for sharing his inspiring story and helping raise awareness of cancer in young people and the unique set of challenges these patients face.

“Our focus at TYAC is on improving diagnosis so that patients start treatment quicker, and on highlighting the need for specific, tailored research for this age group that meets their needs and aims to not only improve treatments, but the overall experience of cancer."