‘I was diagnosed with three different cancers in one year’
A South Belfast blogger, YouTuber and three-time cancer survivor has been sharing her heartfelt journey with her Instagram followers in a bid to both come to terms with the emotions surrounding her diagnosis while trying to help others battling the disease.
Mia Mackin first launched her online blog in the hopes of branding herself as a beauty and lifestyle blogger, but life soon took an unexpected turn when in October 2019 she was diagnosed with Stage 2 advanced Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a rare blood cancer, at the age of 23.
She said that her feelings surrounding her diagnosis were “incredibly calm”.
“I had a massive emotional numbness and I think it affected my family and friends around me more than it really affected me,” she explained.
“It’s hard going through it, but I think it would be even harder watching someone you love go through it.
“On the flip side I was so grateful to have answers to health issues that had bothered me for years; things finally started to make sense,” she added.
After six months of intense chemotherapy and not even a year later, Mia was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in July 2020, when doctors investigated her initial tumour through a PET scan in January 2020.
“I was midway through my chemotherapy and pretty much bald,” she told Sunday Life.
“This was not the news I needed to hear.
“I was told in the January that I was cancer-free, then in July I was told it was now thyroid cancer and I would have to have surgery once again, but this time to remove half of my thyroid,” she explained.
“Then, not even a month later, in August I received a call from my consultant telling me that my thyroid cancer had actually spread and that the other half of my thyroid would need to be removed.
“In September 2020 I had my second surgery to remove the rest of my thyroid and then in January 2021 I had radioactive iodine treatment for three days to blast any remaining cancer cells in my neck.”
As of March earlier this year, however, Mia thankfully received the all clear and is now in remission.
“Being told I had cancer three times in a year was just so surreal,” she said.
“It was so intense having everything happen so quickly one after the other, but I kind of viewed it like a full body MOT, where I literally got everything sorted and checked all at the same time, all the surgeries, all the treatment, it was like I got it all done and dusted so that now I can finally get back to living my life!”
Mia said that the support she received through her online blog during her treatment was “extraordinary”.
“I suppose it all started for selfish reasons, I needed a way to vent and express myself and I quickly realised that I was actually helping others in the process, which was so rewarding and gave me a real boost,” she said.
“When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I scoured the internet for answers. I wanted to find someone to relate to. Hopefully me sharing it online will help someone else in a similar situation.
“I found it incredibly therapeutic to blog about my experiences, especially during lockdown last year when there was very little to do and nobody to talk to,” she added. “I would recommend to anyone to write down your feelings. Even if it’s just for you to have and keep. The vulnerability gave me power. I realised that it’s fine to be 100 per cent honest and open.” She described her online following as “an army”.
“Nobody really understands cancer until they have been through it,” said Mia.
“I am very grateful to be a cancer survivor but the hard work started when treatment came to an end for me. I had no idea who I was or what I wanted to do. I didn’t look or feel like myself.
“If I wasn’t the girl going through cancer then who was I?” she questioned.
“The amount of love and support I get from total strangers is heart-warming. I feel like I have thousands of friends.”
The brave local woman said that one of the most difficult parts of going through treatment, and ultimately sharing it online, was losing her hair.
“Losing my hair was like losing a limb temporarily,” said Mia.
“As a young woman this was really hard. I felt like every day that my hair was falling out I lost a little more of myself.
“I hit rock bottom in about July 2020 as I had very little hair and my weight gain had got out of control due to the treatment and steroids I was on,” she added.
“I realised in that moment that I could change my life and become a healthier version of myself.”
In addition to the support of her family, friends and followers throughout her journey, Mia also thanks the charity Cancer Fund for Children and their volunteers, who she said, “knew what I needed and when” and described the vital work they do as “indispensable”.
“It really is one of the most amazing charities; whether it was a friendly face to talk to or a short break to relax at Daisy Lodge outside Newcastle, I couldn’t have done it without them,” she said.
“I really enjoyed my short breaks there and have been three times throughout my treatment, each time returning home refreshed and ready to take on life again. Their work is fundamental to young people and families going through what I went through.”
Mia said that, even though sharing her cancer journey was incredibly helpful for both herself and her followers going through the same thing, she now wants to “create her dream life” and follow her dreams and passion of beauty and make-up.
“I don’t want to be forever known just as ‘the girl who had cancer,’ I really want to get back to what I was doing before with my love of beauty and lifestyle, and integrate cancer content every so often,” she explained.
After being given the all-clear, the Belfast blogger launched her very own YouTube channel only a few months ago and already has more than 500 subscribers, with some videos clocking up over 3,500 views.
She named it All Things Mia and chats everything from her cancer journey, her job, family life and her love of beauty.
“I just adore make-up, cooking, photography and sharing my life online with the hope that maybe what I share can possibly help someone else,” she explained.
“Life can be crazy and unpredictable at times and when I was going through one of the most difficult times in my life, what you need is someone to relate to.
“It’s a creative outlet for me and I’d love to continue growing my business through social media. I think it is important to be real and raw online. Less filters and more honesty.”
All her hard work and good vibes seem to have radiated back to her, because earlier this year in April, Mia was selected as a brand ambassador for Northern Ireland-based make-up company BPerfect Cosmetics.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said.
“I now create beauty content for them online and it is my dream job. I hope to one day become a full-time beauty blogger and share my love of make-up and beauty with all my followers to show that you can have the life you want, you just have to believe.”
÷ You can keep up-to-date with all Mia’s latest blogs by searching ‘All Things Mia’ on YouTube and Instagram.