Edinburgh teenager opens up about battle with cancer on mental health podcast

A teenager from Edinburgh has taken part in a popular mental health podcast to discuss his various battles with cancer, crohns and the pressures of modern society.

Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 12:30 pm

Brandon Bonner, 14, from the Inch was diagnosed with cancer at age 11.

He is now in remission living with crohns but wants to use his story to motivate others and spread awareness.

The episode premiered on March 30 at 6pm but those wishing to listen can do so by visiting the Youtube page for ‘Flip The Mindset Podcast.’

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In the episode Brandon talks about a variety of issues from mental health, cancer, living with crohns, the pressures of modern day society, his childhood and his relationship with his local neighbourhood centre: Goodtrees.

In 2017 Brandon was diagnosed with crohns and as a result was put on azathioprine for treatment.

The drugs' side effects state that one in 5,000 who use the medicine can develop cancer.

And in January 2018, aged 11, Brandon was rushed to the hospital after struggling to breathe.

Brandon with host Kenny Mackay
Brandon with host Kenny Mackay

Further scans were carried out on Brandon after a blob appeared above his lung and the worst was confirmed.

He said: “I went for a CT scan on February 12 2018 and they said the results would take 10-14 days to come back. But as soon as I got in the door I had a phone call from the hospital telling me to come in as soon as possible as two doctors would meet me in A&E.

“On the way up I had butterflies in my stomach and was shaking. It was a feeling I had never experienced before. I was taken into a room where a doctor came in and tried to break it down for my Granny and I but the minute he mentioned lymph nodes my gran asked “is it cancer?”

“The disbelief I felt was so powerful. I was crying my eyes out as I could not believe what I had just heard. No one wants to hear the big C.”

Brandon in hospital being treated for his cancer

About a month later Brandon started treatment and had four very intense cycles of chemotherapy to treat the stage two lymphoma cancer that developed into a tumour on his right lung.

On being told he was now in remission Brandon added: “It was absolutely the best feeling I’ve ever experienced. There were days in the hospital that were a bit sad and I felt down. But when the whole ward was standing together and I walked up the corridor to ring the remission bell, I was thinking in my head, ‘the 12 hour long days in hospital, the days spent off school, the days spent in bed, this is the moment we celebrate it all being over. When I rang the bell I burst out into tears and the whole ward started clapping - it’s an experience I’ll never forget.”

Brandon was taken in by his grandparents when he was one and a half as his father was given an eight year stretch in jail and his mother turned to drugs by becoming a heroin addict.

But it was through staying with his grandparents that he became a major supporter and activist for his local community.

After battling cancer, Brandon moved onto his next fight of securing funding for Goodtrees Neighbourhood Centre from Edinburgh City Council.

He spoke about how it feels as though communities like his own are often forgotten by governments and local authorities.

This led to the teenager attending a meeting with Councillors, along with others from Goodtrees Neighbourhood Centre, to inform them of the great work that the Centre carries out and to ask for more support.

He said: “I was nervous but it was important to see the people in charge of funding at the City Chambers. It was good to tell them the challenges some people face in the areas that have a lot of poverty and the violence that exists here.

“The south of Edinburgh only gets around 20 percent of funding from the Council for third sector agencies - the other parts of Edinburgh get the other 80 percent. We felt that the Council needed to give areas like the Inch more funding for resources to get young people off the streets.

“Surely it would stop a lot of the violence in the Moredun/Inch area as well as tackling abuse of alcohol and drugs if we had adequate services. My belief is that if community centres had money for resources to tackle these challenges it would make all the difference.

Brandon at age 14 in remission

“It’s important to support the people who don’t have much and need an extra little bit of help."

Brandon personally raised money over £1,000 for Goodtrees and has campaigned with the Centre to help tackle youth violence in the area.

On advice for anyone out there facing similar battles, he said: “Anyone going through the same things I would say try and always stay positive, don't let it beat you mentally and always have a smile on your face.

“I’ve been through the mill for only being 14. I regret nothing in life and I am glad that what’s happened to me has happened even though it’s been very tough, it’s made me the person I am today, and gave me a bigger look on life and to never take anything for granted.”

Brandon is currently writing a book about his life but hopes to become a motivational speaker and to start his own catering company when he finishes high school.

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