Student, 22, with cancer reveals she’s ditched wigs during chemo

Fashion student, 22, who was diagnosed with cancer after GP dismissed her chest pains reveals she’s ditched her wigs during chemotherapy – because she doesn’t want to hide the ‘hardest battle of my life so far’

  • Olivia Smith, 22, from Southampton, experienced chest pains while on holiday 
  • Concerns were dismissed by doctors at first, who later misdiagnosed pains
  • After noticing lumps on neck, Olivia was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • She has been sharing her inspiring journey to recovery on Instagram 
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A fashion student who was diagnosed with cancer after her chest pains were dismissed by doctors has revealed how she’s decided to ditch the wigs while receiving chemotherapy.

Olivia Smith, 22, from Southampton, explained how she began experiencing chest pains after having just a sip of alcohol while on holiday in Menorca, Spain. 

A GP dismissed her chest pains initially, before doctors misdiagnosed her with costochondritis, an inflammation of the cartilage in the rib cage.

It was only when Olivia noticed a few lumps had appeared on her neck that she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. 

She has since been sharing her inspiring journey to recovery on Instagram, explaining why she has decided to not wear wigs anymore – because she doesn’t want to hide ‘the hardest battle of my life so far’.

Fashion student Olivia Smith, 22, from Southampton, was diagnosed with cancer after doctors dismissed her chest pains at first 

Olivia (pictured before her cancer diagnosis) described how the pains were dismissed by doctors at first  

Olivia described how she first began experiencing chest pains while on holiday in Menorca. 

‘I started to notice something was wrong whilst I was on holiday in Menorca last year. When I drunk even just a sip of alcohol I would get a pain in my chest,’ Olivia said.

‘This went on for a few weeks, so I made an appointment with my GP. First of all, the doctor told me that there was no possible correlation between drinking alcohol and having a pain in your chest.

‘I was told to simply not drink any alcohol. But being the sociable twenty-one-year-old that I was I didn’t stop, I simply just ignored the pain but after a few months the pain got worse.

Olivia (pictured wearing a wig) has also revealed why she decided to stop wearing wigs 

‘I made another GP appointment where I was again misdiagnosed with costochondritis. 

‘A few weeks later I noticed a few lumps had appeared on my neck, so I went back to the GP where they then referred me to see the lymphoma specialist.’ 

The fashion communications students said she had never heard of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma before her diagnosis.

‘Before this day I had never even heard of the word Lymphoma. On the day I went to the lymphoma clinic I had an X-ray that day. It became pretty clear that I did have cancer because the X-ray showed several growths,’ she said. 

Olivia explained how she’s stopped wearing wigs because she doesn’t want to hide ‘the hardest battle of her life so far’ 

Olivia (pictured during her chemotherapy treatment) has been sharing her story with others on Instagram 

‘The weeks that followed were full of a lot of “why me” tears; I would fill my drive to work with plans of how I would tell my family the news and mostly worrying about how ugly I would look with no hair.

‘This was the point where I realised why people are secretive about things like this. It is obviously so reassuring to know I have such a huge support network, but I began to feel like an alien.

‘It is not until something of this nature happens to you that you learn the right way to act towards a person going through it.

‘People want to be there for you, and that is so kind, but to be so upset that I actually end up consoling them over the situation is frustrating and you leave the conversation feeling down yourself.’ 

The fashion student (pictured in hospital) admits that has been difficult to remain positive 

Olivia described how she thought ‘why me’ after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma 

Olivia has decided now to document her journey online, and has so far gained 5,000 followers on Instagram. 

She said: ‘I have now replaced the “why me” tears with a strong trust in my journey; I have fully come to terms with the fact I am battling cancer at age twenty-two and it truly has taught me so much.

‘Yes, I feel like cancer has stolen a year of my life. But, Hodgkin’s is curable. I am being cured; my recent scans show no remaining tumours after only two cycles of Adriamycin bleomycin vinblastine dacarbazine (ABVD) chemotherapy.

‘I still have to go through the full six months of chemo to ensure that they have got it all. But I believe everything happens for a reason. That reason being I will grab life with both hands after all of this.

Olivia (pictured with her natural hair) said she has come to terms with the fact she is battling cancer aged 22 

The student (pictured on holiday in Menorca) wants to raise awareness after her cancer was misdiagnosed 

‘I believe my future would have been entirely different had I not been faced with this at such a young age. I used to be so comfortably numb, but now I feel everything with such passion.’ 

Olivia also explained her decision to no longer wear a wig, after losing her hair following chemotherapy.  

‘I have wasted so much time looking for wigs, trips to London, entering competitions, endless meetings and conversations with The Little Princess Trust trying to find the perfect wig,’ she said.

‘But one day I realised why am I trying to cover up the fact that I am fighting the hardest battle of my life so far?

Olivia (pictured wearing a wig) explained she feels more confident now she’s not trying to conceal her cancer 

The student (picture before her diagnosis) said she believes ‘everything happens for a reason’

‘It took me a long time to realise that cancer isn’t something to be embarrassed of, but actually a battle to be proud I am fighting.

‘I feel so much more confident now that I am not trying to conceal my cancer, and I am helping so many other young people fighting cancer to feel the same.

‘To know that sharing my struggle is helping and inspiring so many others has made me realise that there was a reason for all of this; and my purpose is to share and spread awareness.

‘I also rely heavily on my family to look after me, I have had to learn to let go of my independence a little and be driven around and cooked for.’

Olivia (pictured during chemotherapy) said she wants to help others by sharing her journey 

Olivia (pictured while mid-way through chemotherapy) said she used to worry about how ugly she would look with no hair

The student described the mental part of her cancer journey as being the most difficult part 


Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a type of cancer that starts in the white blood cells.

It affects around 1,950 people each year in the UK.  

A common early symptom is having a painless swelling in the armpits, neck and groin.

Some people also experience heavy night sweating, extreme weight loss, itching, shortness of breath and coughing.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma is most common between the ages of 20 and 24, and 75 and 79.

It has been linked to people with lowered immunity, a family history of the condition, smokers and those who are overweight.

Treatment may include chemotherapy, radiotherapy, steroids and stem cell or bone marrow transplants.

Source: Cancer Research UK 

Olivia says that the hardest part of the process has been staying positive, but sharing her journey with the public has helped her come to terms with her illness.

‘The mental aspect of this has been the hardest part by a mile. This week I feel I’ve made the most progress I’ve made yet so far,’ she said.

‘Sometimes you don’t have to step forward to make progress, sometimes sitting still is the best progress.

‘The truth so many people miss is that happiness doesn’t start with a relationship, with a degree or with the perfect job. Happiness is realising what a precious privilege it is to be alive.

‘Sometimes there will be sadness and struggle in our lives but we must realise the beauty, we must keep putting one foot in front of the other because you never know what’s around the bend.’

‘Make peace with your past and don’t let it spoil the present. I am lucky enough to be given another chance at life. I have fallen apart and oh boy am I putting the pieces back together differently.’  

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