Meet Kerrie, diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, aged 19

Meet Kerrie, diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, aged 19

Hi I’m Kerrie, I’m 24 years old – I wanted to share my cancer story.

I still remember the day it all happened.  A massive lump appeared on my left collarbone overnight. I thought nothing of it, so I went into work as normal for a 12-hour shift as a care assistant in a care home. A few hours in, I began feeling lethargic and I almost collapsed.

I had an emergency appointment with my GP where they examined the lump, took some bloods and prescribed antibiotics. I was referred to my local hospital for an urgent ultrasound on the lump and I had three biopsies, which came back as ‘inconclusive’.

The rapid growth of the lump meant it was almost blocking my windpipe, so I was put on steroid tablets to shrink it. One night I had to go into A&E as the lump had gotten so big - I was left unable to breathe. I was given medication to open my airways and oxygen to help me breathe. The emergency doctor asked, “has anyone told you what it could possibly be?” to which I responded “no”. He then went on to say, “I’m sorry you have to hear it from me, it’s likely to be cancer”.

I was 19 years old at the time and the words cancer made my whole world come crashing down. I was scared about what was going to happen next - there was so much uncertainty which worsened my anxiety.

I went for a CT scan, which showed some potential lumps in my chest mediastinum and I needed surgery.  Three lumps were removed, and the CT scan also showed more lumps on the right-hand side of my neck and on half of my right lung – I had to have this part of my lung removed along with the other lumps.

It took me five consistent months to get a diagnosis on what was wrong.

As weeks passed, I was resting in bed, when I got an unexpected phone call from my haematologist asking me to go into the hospital to discuss the results from my surgery. I entered the room and sat down in the chair. My haematologist explained the results and then said to me “I’m sorry to tell you, but it is a form of cancer.”

At this point I was trying to hold back my tears, which was difficult. He presented me with a handbook on “Hodgkin’s Lymphoma” and explained it wasn’t a normal case, but a more aggressive form of the disease.

I faced six rounds of intensive chemotherapy at high doses, for a total of six months - with a PET-CT scan after every two cycles to monitor progress, followed by three weeks of radiotherapy. During treatment, I developed sepsis five times, and at one point I was hospitalised for two weeks as I had the flu alongside it. 

Finally, on 19th March 2018 I rang the end of treatment bell.

A few months later, I started to experience terrible pain in my hips. I now have Avascular Necrosis, which is where the intensive chemo has destroyed the healthy tissues. The next step for me is to have a full left hip replacement.

Although my treatment is finished, my journey doesn’t end altogether, with ongoing check-ups and scans and lung function tests for the next 10 years.

I first heard about Teens Unite from my friend Crystal, I’ve taken part in many online sessions from arts & crafts, quizzes (which I look forward to every Thursday), bingo and makeup sessions.

The Teens Unite Digital Christmas Ball was such an amazing evening and showed that even though we’re in uncertain times with a pandemic - it doesn’t stop you from being positive and from living your best life. If you’ve experienced cancer, you haven’t got to feel on your own – with Teens Unite you’re surrounded by others who have been through a similar thing as you, if not, the same.

The online sessions have benefited me hugely with both my anxiety and confidence. And since I’m mostly shielding due to COVID-19, the digital activities have given me something to focus on and stopped me feeling secluded from the outside world. As I’ve not had much contact during the whole pandemic, they’ve helped me to stay connected and still have fun despite being indoors.  There’s always time to talk at the end of the activity and I enjoy speaking with my friends and getting to know each other a bit more. 

My hope for the future is to return to work as I’ve been signed off for almost three years now. One day, I plan to study adult nursing at uni and specialise in oncology as a way of giving back to those who have helped me.

My whole cancer journey has made me stronger and made me realise if I can beat cancer I can do anything - as it is one of the toughest battles you’ll ever have to face in life. It’s opened my eyes up to realise how short life really is and how easily it can be taken away from you. 

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