Natalia was 20 when, halfway through her university degree, her perception of life changed. She was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and underwent 6 months of chemotherapy at the Royal Free Hospital. She came face to face with mortality for the first time and finally managed to convince her parents to get a dog!
Nearly 3 years in remission and she’s now working for Cancer Research UK, is a strong advocate for patient involvement and actively campaigns to raise awareness of this disease.
What motivated you to join Your Involvement Network and get involved in CRUK’s work?
During treatment, I felt a strong need to help others who were either facing cancer or were ultimately going to go through similar experiences as myself. I learnt about CRUK’s Your Involvement Network and felt that my voice, opinions and experiences to fuel changes in cancer services would be valued. After university, I knew I wanted to commence my career in Patient Involvement as I saw the true value of patient voice. As an anthropologist, I love to learn about other people’s experiences and how everyone’s journey with cancer is different, to gain greater knowledge on how best to tackle issues. So, naturally, I was led to CRUK where I am more driven than ever before to contribute to their work.
What have you been involved in?
Whilst promoting some opportunities to the network, I came across a patient representative role for the Quality of Life Metric Pilot at UCLH. I am passionate about improving quality of life post cancer and believe it is an area abandoned by many charities and health institutions. The project aims to help those who have suffered breast, colorectal and prostate cancer, by assessing their mental and physical health over a period of time, in the hope of later putting effective support systems into place. I have only just started this role but am incredibly excited to delve deeper into it. The thought that my opinions and suggestions may have an impact on how this research is conducted makes me terribly proud.
What have you learnt from your experience of being involved?
My academic research, patient rep role, volunteer work for other charities and working for CRUK, has shown me that although most say that every journey with cancer is different, there are common threads. It seems to me that our journey with cancer, in one way or another, never ends; otherwise we wouldn’t get involved. This was clearly seen in the opportunity where patients reviewed CRUK’s new treatment diary. Reviewing the suggestions, everyone seemed to agree on elements, such as particular sentences that had to be changed. So, although everyone had a different example as to why, the result was the same. Despite different emotions, journeys, treatments and experiences, the people I have worked with have an appreciation for one another, value each other’s voice and appear to feel part of a community where they are connected by nothing other than cancer.
The network is a network of mutual understanding, which to some extent cannot be understood by others. Where else would you find me, a 23-year-old, talking so openly about my emotions and hair loss, other than within the network; a place where many have gone through it differently, yet understand perfectly.