At the age of 13 whilst on holiday with my parents and 3 siblings, I found a lump on my right thigh. I thought it was just a bite and continued my holiday as normal. It wasn’t until I got home and realised the lump was still there and seemed bigger than before. I told my parents about it and was told to keep an eye on it and let them know if it got worse. It did. However, I didn’t tell them anything. I was scared and stupidly decided to hide the lump as it grew and grew. Little did I know, this lump was a cancerous tumour that had also spread to my brain and my lungs.
The tumour in my brain eventually grew that big over a period of 8 months that it pushed my brain to the side and changed the way I acted. I had gone from being a happy, sporty, outgoing teenager to a silent, lethargic one. I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep. I was physically conscious but mentally unconscious. My parents knew there was something wrong and took me to the a&e where I was diagnosed on the spot with cancer as there was nothing else it could have been at the size that it was.
I was sent for scans and biopsies over the space of the next few days which is where my brain and 6 tumours were discovered. My diagnosis was finalised as rare high grade metastatic sarcoma. My tumour on my thigh was now the size of a football, my brain tumour the size of an apple, and my lung tumours the size of grapes. I was extremely ill. I was taken to a hospital near me who turned me away and said there was nothing more that they could do for me.
My parents did not give up and I ended up at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital. 5 days after my diagnosis, I was lying on an operating theatre having a major 8 hour brain operation to try and remove the tumour inside my head.
This operation was a success but the doctors only gave me 8 weeks to live. They didn’t know what type of sarcoma I had and so they gave my the most aggressive treatment for all types. They ‘threw the book at me’.
I underwent 6 months of inpatient chemotherapy, a leg operation to remove my then shrunk thigh tumour, 6 months of in-patient chemotherapy, a lung operation to remove the final tumour that the chemotherapy didn’t remove, and finally 6 weeks of daily radiotherapy to all 3 areas that I had cancer.
This resulted in me having 18 months worth of treatment from the age of 14-16 whilst studying for my GCSE’s. I missed a lot of school time and felt that being ill had altered my friendships with all of my close friends. They stuck by me throughout my treatment, and I am still best friends with many of them, but it was hard to maintain the friendship we had with me not being in school, let alone with the taboo subject of cancer.
My mobility was also dramatically affected. This impacted me more than anything. I had gone from running for 90 minute football games and competing in hour long cross country races, to being bed bound for at least the first 6 months of treatment. I then was faced with the task of pushing myself in a wheelchair and then learning how to walk again. I am able to walk unaided now but I cannot run.
Along the way, I faced many obstacles, many of which were only overcome thanks to amazing charities. One that is extremely close to my heart and that I still have a lot of involvement with is Youth Cancer Trust (YCT). I became involved with this charity in 2013 when I went on my first YCT holiday experience with a group of people that I had met through having cancer. I had no idea what to expect from this week but I couldn’t ever have expected the effect it had on me and my friends. We got to spend a week not worrying about hospitals or studying or work, having fun and living with each other. Alongside the fact that we were out every day doing incredible activities. We also got to just chill with each other in the evenings, spend time in the therapy room and the art room expressing ourselves. We got to bond with each other feeling completely comfortable every day. The team that work at YCT do everything they can to make sure that you have a great stay and have done so every time I have returned to the charity for my 4 holidays.
I am now coming up to 22 years old and am completely healthy. I was given the all clear 6 years ago this year and only have a few minor physical side effects. I have found a para sport that I absolutely love doing and have managed to get onto the British Team. I am already competing at international level with my international debut in August 2018 at the ICF Sprint Canoe World Championships in Montemor O’Velho, Portugal – I am now 9th fastest K1 KL3 Women in the world!
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I have so far completed 2 years of a 3 year Biomedical Health Degree studying the body’s mechanisms and how disease affects it.
I want to eventually use my experience as a positive to help people who are also ill to get better. But for now, I am taking an Authorised Break of Study (ABS) from university for 2 years to focus on my sport.