For many years, Sam Alderton-Johnson (30) felt shame and despair when he recalled his memories of suffering from leukaemia as a young boy of 14. “When you’re younger you have this warped idea of what masculinity is,” Sam explains. “I thought that being that very sick kid was a terrible time in my life that I never wanted to engage with, that was until I got older and I realised it had helped form the person I am.”
As a teenager, Sam enjoyed sports immensely, however, his life was turned upside down with his diagnosis of leukaemia. He remembers the moment that he was diagnosed vividly, even after all of these years. “I was lucky that my leukaemia was diagnosed early,” Sam remembers. “After the diagnosis, it was an absolute whirlwind for me, I barely had time to digest the news. The life I had known and loved as a child changed completely.”
The weekly visit to the gym was replaced by constant hospital appointments and he began to find life extremely isolating. “At the start of my diagnosis there were a lot of people around,” Sam recalls. “Unfortunately it’s a very long journey and I felt very isolated at times, and that’s never a good thing to go through for anyone.”
Sam remembers a friend who stood with him throughout his chemotherapy. “When you are a teenager, you really value those friendships and they mean the world to you,” Sam explains. “I was really lucky to have this one friend who was always there for me throughout my chemo. The simple act of having a friend like that, was such a huge thing for me at that time, and I don’t forget it.”
As an adult, Sam has started to reflect on his cancer journey more and more, including his eventual recovery. When he was a teenager, mobile technology was in its infancy, and he believes the CancerAid app would have been a huge help to him. “The simple act of connecting with people going on a similar journey is so powerful,” Sam says. “The champion feature of the app brings people together, and will do great work fighting those feelings of isolation, I would have loved to have had something like that.”
Sam was a young boy when he went through his treatment, and in the aftermath of his remission, he experienced depression. He believes that CancerAid has the potential to bring communities together across the world to allay feelings of anxiety. “When you go through something like cancer, people always feel once you are remission that it over,” Sam explains. “That’s not true, you need people more than ever, I know I did. The simple act of having someone to contact who can relate is huge.”
After years of feeling that his experiences as a child with cancer were something to forget, Sam now believes that his journey helped to strengthen his resolve as an adult. “If you look for any photos of me in that period, you won’t find any. I just didn’t want to associate with that young boy I felt was sick and weak. However, since I have had kids, I realise how strong as I was to come through it, and I want to show people that there is always hope.”
Sam has started training in a condensed course that takes ordinary people and turns them into cage fighters. Sam is competed in the octagon to raise money for cancer research and he hopes to inspire many more people with his cancer journey. Through telling his story of childhood cancer, Sam assumed the warrior spirit well before a punch was thrown in the cage.