Freja Östergren Löthén: “I get annoyed when people say I seem strong”

Name: Freja Östergren Löthén
Age: 12.
Cancer: Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

Freja Östergren Löthén. Photo: Christopher Hunt

“It started when I got a pain in my back after a friend gave me a big hug. It was so painful and I was so tired that I couldn’t do my homework. In the end I had a bone marrow test. When I found out I had leukaemia I thought, ‘Oh no, I’m going to lose my hair!’ We got me a wig, but I never used it, I wore a hat instead. It’s hard that you have to look ill, but the worst bit really was having the needles put in. I used to have chemotherapy on Fridays and each time there was another girl there having treatment at the same time. We used to talk, and that made it more fun to be at the hospital.

I got very weak and had pain in my back and my muscles, it was almost like having sore muscles from too much exercise. I also broke my leg four times! And I was also sick a lot. I found it difficult to eat, but because I like cooking we used to take food with us into the hospital that I could prepare there and then I’d have a little taste.

I’ve missed a lot of school. After a while I was able to go to school again for a few days a week. Sometimes I wanted to go to school so much that I went a day early.

I have now started Year Seven and have finished my treatment. When people who haven’t had cancer tell me I seem to be a strong person I get annoyed. I never felt I was being strong, but I had no choice.

When I’m older I want to do research into childhood cancer, to help prevent these illnesses. I also want to be a paediatrician working on cancer. I think children would find it reassuring if their doctor was someone who had had the same experience as them.”

As told to: Maja Lundbäck, first published in the magazine "Medicinsk Vetenskap" no 3, 2016.