#MyLastingImpression Alex McBride

Thursday, 8 March 2018

What would go through your mind if you were faced with a blood cancer diagnosis?

Would you face your diagnosis with fear… or hope?

Two years ago, Alex McBride, 21, was a fresher studying nursing at Glasgow Caledonian University. It was the first time she had lived away from home; she is East Belfast born and raised.

Alex immediately found a group of friends she clicked with. They studied hard by day and enjoyed themselves at the weekends. Like most freshers, they didn’t pay attention to their bodies and it wasn’t until Alex noticed an unfamiliar lump appear on her neck that she started to wonder if something might be wrong.

Over time the lump grew. Alex noticed that after a big night out it would throb and become noticeably harder. She told her friends about it and considered visiting a doctor, but she was still registered in Belfast – it just wasn’t convenient to visit.

Five months later, Alex returned to Belfast and met with her GP. Things happened quickly from there. She was referred to the hospital and after multiple tests it was confirmed that she had blood cancer - Hodgkins Lymphoma. She didn’t even know what it was; she’d never been affected by it before.

In that moment of being told that she had blood cancer, all Alex could think about was that she wouldn’t be able to go back to university. She was afraid she might never become a nurse.

Six months of treatment followed, during which Alex formed close friendships with the nurses on her ward. The comfort they offered made her even more determined to follow her nursing dream and one day help others, like they helped her.

On June 21st 2016, Alex was declared in remission. She returned to Glasgow to continue her studies but she couldn’t settle. Life had changed and her friends had moved on. She knew she needed to go back home and follow her dream in a different way.

Alex enrolled as a student nurse at Queens in September 2017 and she hasn’t looked back. Now, you can find her pacing the wards at hospitals across Northern Ireland, focused on achieving the goal she held in her heart throughout her treatment – to become a nurse.

Rachel Lawell, a local artist, captured Alex’s portrait for this campaign. In September, you will be able to see it at an open exhibition in Ulster University. Details will follow soon.

For the 99 people diagnosed with blood cancer every month in Northern Ireland, they know the fear that comes with a blood cancer diagnosis – will I live to see my daughter get married? Who will take care of my pets if I’m not here? Will I ever become a nurse?

But there is hope.

Thanks to scientists based here in Belfast, funded by us, three out of four people in Northern Ireland diagnosed with blood cancer survive.

But for that one in four there’s still work to be done.

Please share our message far and wide. With your help, we can fund research to help find a cure for blood cancer.