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Lauren's shares her cancer story

Lauren was diagnosed with T-Cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma when she was four years old. Now in her 20s, Lauren shares her childhood cancer journey:

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Lauren as a toddler hold a tric

Diagnosis

I was diagnosed with T-Cell Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma stage 4 in February 2001 which came as a huge shock to my family. As I was so young, I have no recollection of the day my family received the news but I do remember a lot of experiences during my cancer journey. Surprisingly not all of them were that bad thanks to the doctors and nurses looking after me!

Symptoms

The main symptom I got was nausea and vomiting. An x-ray was done and unfortunately this showed a mass in my chest the ‘size of a grapefruit’. I did not really have any other signs or symptoms.

Lauren 1

Living in hospital

I do not remember everything, which I guess I am grateful for but there are parts of my cancer journey that I will never forget such as living in hospital for a very long time and missing at least a year of school but also being surrounded by the most amazing doctors and nurses who looked after me and made me better. I have two rag dolls still to this day who lived in hospital with me and I named them after two nurses at the Royal London Hospital – Becky and Kate.

Treatment

First of all I had a Hickman line inserted just under my arm which sat in a ‘wiggly bag’ when it was not being used. I was not allowed to get the tubes wet when I had a bath so they would be wrapped in a sandwich bag. I also had to have my dressing for this changed weekly and I would scream the place down because it stung me so much under my arm where the tube was inserted.

I remember they always gave me an anaesthetic which they called ‘magic milk’ through this Hickman line but for some reason it always gave me a stinging feeling in my chest and again I would scream the hospital down so they ended up giving me the gas masks to put me to sleep. This anaesthetic was given to me because I often had to have a lumbar puncture and bone marrow test which I had to be put to sleep for. One of the worst things I actually remember is how sick the anaesthetic made me – I used to be sick for nearly the whole day after.

The funniest part is I would sit on my mums lap and breathe through this mask and although I knew I would eventually fall to sleep, I tried my hardest to stay awake because I never wanted it to happen.

Lauren's dolls

Side effects and complications

The Hickman line was also used to give me my chemotherapy treatment which did of course help me but my immune system became extremely weak due to the treatment and also the cancer itself. This made it very likely for me to get any kind of infection which at one point I did. There was a time when I became so ill due to having this infection as well as the cancer that my family nearly lost me twice. But because I was in the care of such amazing people, I pulled through and it made me even stronger. I think the most difficult part for them was trying to get me to actually talk as I was so stubborn and would not say a word to anyone.

Two of my consultants, (who nicknamed me Twinkle Toes) tried literally anything and everything to save my life and for that I am forever grateful, you are both amazing!

I remember that certain medication I was taking caused me to have fits and gain a lot of weight and I also lost my hair due to the chemotherapy. However, I count myself very lucky to have survived this awful disease.

Lauren white top with brown hair

I am now 25

I am now 25, nearly 26 years old and currently working in a care provision supporting young adults with special needs and disabilities. I still attend follow up appointments and I remember one of my consultants saying that these appointments will help him with his studies as he was going into the research field. I also have an echocardiogram done every few years as it is possible that chemotherapy can affect the heart but so far there have been no problems. To think back all those years to the little bald girl living in hospital to the person I am now, I guess I am actually proud of myself for what I have overcome and I did not realise how strong I actually am.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Here’s to all my fellow cancer survivors and for those still fighting, if I can beat it then so can you.

May 2021

Lauren as an adult

How you can help

If you’ve been touched by Lauren’s journey, help us invest in the high quality research that really matters which would otherwise go unfunded.

This helps to support children with cancer so they can be with their families for longer.

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Have you or a family member been affected by childhood cancer?

Many of our supporters have been affected by childhood cancer – either through family, friends or their own personal experience. These patient stories can help inspire others to get involved with us, or can support our media work.

If you have a story that you would like to tell, please contact us by email.

 

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