'You never know how strong you are' - Stefan, 23, tells of cancer fight

Stefan Pintilie, 23, is taking part in a campaign for the charity CLIC Sargent

Stefan Pintilie, 23, is taking part in a campaign for the charity CLIC Sargent to help share hope and positive thoughts ahead of World Cancer Day - Credit: Supplied by CLIC Sargent

A 23-year-old cancer patient from Colchester is speaking out about his experiences for World Cancer Day this week, aiming to spread hope and positive thoughts.

Stefan Pintilie, 23, is taking part in a campaign by CLIC Sargent, a charity which helps young cancer patients, ahead of the awareness day on Thursday, February 4.

The charity's social media campaign focuses on four powerful words that young people supported by the charity said have helped them, unity, strength, friends and hope. 

Stefan is  focusing on the word strength, as he says this best reflects his cancer experience.

Stefan Pintilie from Colchester, pictured before he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Stefan Pintilie from Colchester, pictured before he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Stefan is taking part in a campaign to spread hope and positive thoughts for World Cancer Day - Credit: Supplied by CLIC Sargent

“If I had to choose a word to describe this whole experience it is strength," he said.

"Whether it was strength given from all the people around me through cards and encouragements, or strength I found within myself, strength is something I discovered on this journey.

"No matter how big and scary the word cancer can be, it's only when you're faced with it and you have no other option but to fight, that you realise your true strength.

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"For anyone else with lymphoma or cancer out there, remember that you never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have."

Stefan is a residence life co-ordinator at the University of Essex, providing community and mental health support to students. 

In November 2019,  he began experiencing severe back pain which spread to his hip and leg, making it hard for him to sleep or sit down.

As he underwent scans and blood tests, he had four different diagnoses in seven months, of a slipped disc, a pinched sciatic nerve, arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

He was then diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of blood cancer, and started six months of chemotherapy last August.

Throughout his cancer journey he has been supported by a CLIC Sargent social worker, which he says has been very helpful, especially as he has no family in the UK and also sadly lost his mother a year before diagnosis.

Stefan has had to shield during the Covid-19 crisis and said: “I haven’t seen anyone for about three months.

"I’ll be shielding until lockdown is over. But, because of the risk of infection, even without Covid, there are colds and my immune system is down, I don’t mind.

"I’ve recently discovered painting so I spend hours doing that or I play PlayStation or work. I see my friends over Zoom or they visit outside the window.”

He added: “I’ve also made plans for when the treatment has run its course.

"I’m planning to go to Scotland, Covid permitting, I’ve never been there and it’s giving me something to look forward to.”

Rachel Kirby-Rider, CLIC Sargent’s chief executive said: “Hope, strength, unity and friends are powerful words that mean a lot to the young people and families that we support.

"The inspiring words from Stefan are just what we all need right now.”

The charity has shared Stefan's story on Instagram and on their website, and he has also entered a photograph in CLIC Sargent's first virtual World Cancer Day art show.