Woman with cancer had to keep it hidden from her community – ‘I had to live a double life’

Anglee discovered she had stage four non-Hodgkin lymphoma in October last year, after going to the doctor about heart palpitations and chest pain – although she was “not taken seriously” at first. Since then she has undergone chemotherapy, causing her to lose her hair, and was told in March she is in remission. But the 27-year-old, who is from an Indian-Afghan background, recalled having to lead a “double life” at the time.

Speaking at a recent Macmillan panel event, she said: “It’s quite a small community. They are quite closed minded.

“My mum also had cancer a few years ago and that was a big secret. Luckily she didn’t lose any hair so she was still out and about.

“In my community no young person has ever had cancer so I was asked to keep it a secret. I have two Instagram profiles, one where I talk about it, one where I don’t.”

She added: “The biggest reason in my community is if a girl has an illness they think you won’t get married.

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“But it’s a part of my life, it’s who you are – we need to embrace it.”

Following her diagnosis and treatment Anglee decided to spread the word about her condition and is now vying for the title of Miss Universe Great Britain in order to gain a platform to do so.

“Recently, because I wanted to raise awareness, I told my parents it doesn’t matter if they find out because I’m not doing it for the people who are OK, I’m talking about it for the people who are not,” she explained.

“I’m sure other people have experienced it, they just don’t talk about it because you’re encouraged not to talk about it.

“It’s really hard because you have to live a double life.

“I got diagnosed around October and a few weeks after it was my cousin’s wedding and I had to go dressed up, perform and act like my world is not coming crashing down on the inside.

“I’m now trying to be that person to break the stereotype so that people do talk about it.

“Talking about it and getting help is a huge part of recovery and you need it.”

During her treatment Anglee turned to Macmillan for support, mainly benefitting from its therapy service.

She said: “Every day I was crying in my room and didn’t want to cry in front of my family. I just shut my door and cried. So I called them (Macmillan).

“When you approach a GP for therapy you have to go on a waiting list. This was available straight away.

“I was getting a lot of things off my chest and it stopped me continuing to cry every day.

“That’s the thing I’m most grateful for.”

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of cancer that develops in the lymphatic system, which is a network of vessels and glands spread throughout your body.

According to the NHS, the most common symptom “is a painless swelling in a lymph node, usually in the neck, armpit or groin”.

However, other symptoms can include night sweats, unintentional weight loss, a high temperature, feelings of breathlessness and persistent itching of the skin all over the body.

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