Almost 360,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in the UK every year and each one of their stories is different. In the run up to World Cancer Day, five people affected by the disease, either personally or through family, have shared their stories in a series of blogs on HuffPost UK.
Their insights lift the lid on the realities of diagnosis, treatment and life after the all clear, revealing that while cancer is never easy, it is possible to find happiness again.
“My dog jumped on me and I found a lump.”
As a 33-year-old bride-to-be, Sarah Roberts felt the fittest she had ever been, but last August she was diagnosed with breast cancer after noticing a lump when her dog jumped on her.
“I went to grab my right breast as the little blighter had landed on it and I felt a lump, a very big lump,” she explained. “Before I knew it, I was at the hospital having an ultrasound, mammogram and biopsy. I had a feeling
something was wrong so wanted to act quickly.”
Sarah is now undergoing treatment and although she has good days and bad days, her finance Jake has remained a huge source of support.
“Nothing will ever steal my optimism, I will forever be optimistic. I am getting married in December 2018 - and I am determined to be there,” she said.
Read Sarah’s full blog here.
“Having my stomach removed helped me see my daughters grow up.”
Five years ago Dan Taylor found out he carried a faulty gene called CDH1. Like the better-known BRCA gene mutation, which is linked to breast cancer, having a CDH1 gene mutation increases a person’s risk of being diagnosed with stomach cancer.
The father-of-two elected to have preventative surgery and have his entire stomach removed. Dan is still able to consume solids, but has to consume much smaller quantities of higher calorie food now.
“The seven-hour operation involved joining my oesophagus (the food pipe) directly to my intestine,” he explained. “After surgery, tests showed I already had stomach cancer, even though I hadn’t noticed any symptoms. If I hadn’t had surgery, I might not [have survived].”
“The best thing is that I’m still here to see my two girls as they grow up. Abigail is nearly 10 and Edith is six and they’re such lovely little girls. I love spending time with them, love watching them grow and change.”
Read Dan’s full blog here.
“I thought my cancer had returned, but it was something much better.”
In 2010 Norva Semoy Abiona was told she had a 15cm cancerous mass growing on her right ovary, which she had to have removed. Doctors said this could make her experience early menopause.
“My husband and I were trying to have children for a few years and by then we had had two miscarriages. You can imagine how sad and frustrating it was for me after wanting to have children to know that I don’t have a right ovary any more,” she said.
At her four-month check-up, doctors told Norva they’d found an abnormality that needed investigating. She feared the worst and assumed her cancer had spread, but an ultrasound scan revealed it was good news.
“To their surprise and mine, I was actually pregnant. Nine months after that I gave birth to a wonderful, beautiful girl called Odelia.”
Watch Norva’s full vlog here.
“I was told I had cancer on my 8th birthday.”
Coming to terms with a cancer diagnosis is hard at any age and at any time, but Edward Garside found out he had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, a form of blood cancer, on his eighth birthday.
“I began treatment straight away and it was intense for about 10 months. I felt ill most of the time and all of my hair fell out. As I was so young, it was hard to explain to people how I felt and what I was going through,” Edward, now 16, said.
The next three years were uncertain for Edward. He had repeated trips to hospital for checkups and further treatment, when he just wanted to “spend [his] time at school, watching football, playing football and seeing friends.” It wasn’t until he was 11 that Edward was finally told he’d responded well to treatment and now only needed check-ups. He still remembers the day clearly.
“I cannot put into words how happy I felt, it was such a memorable moment. The joy on my family and friends’ faces was amazing and the doctors and nurses that helped me along the way were so pleased too,” he said.
Read Edward’s full blog here.
“Both of my children were diagnosed with cancer.”
Gillian Foreman and her husband Michael have lived through every parent’s nightmare - not one, but both of their children were diagnosed with cancer. The couple’s youngest, Neil, developed a lump by his groin when he was just two-and-a-half years old, so they took him to hospital immediately. He was diagnosed with Wilms tumour, a rare form of kidney cancer. “My blood boiled when we found out the news – I was just so angry this was happening to our family - but I held back,“ Gillian, now 72, said.
Neil underwent radiotherapy and chemotherapy, but was thankfully given the all clear. However, the family were dealt a second blow when Neil’s sister, Anna, was diagnosed with leukaemia on her 31st birthday. “We couldn’t believe what was happening, I thought, ‘not again, please’,” Gillian said.
Thanks to treatment Anna is now in remission and Gillian said the experience of supporting her two children through cancer has made them closer as a family. “Life has certainly thrown a lot at us but we are so appreciative of where we are now and luck has finally been on our side – both of our amazing children have now had children of their own. We did not see this coming after all they had been through,” she said.
Read Gillian’s full blog here.
Sarah, Edward, Norva, Gillian and Dan are supporting Cancer Research UK. Get involved on World Cancer Day, Sunday 4 February, and wear a Unity Band to help fund research right now. Visit cruk.org/worldcancerday.