Stories to inspire
Cancer is such a cruel disease and can change your life forever but it can also create the most touching stories which inspire and give hope to others
"As a black woman, to find anyone who is BAME and talking about leukaemia online is quite difficult, and I just want people to know that there is someone out there and they’re not alone."
At the age of 18, Naa Yeye was diagnosed with blood cancer, and 16 years later she is still dealing with long-term side effects.
“It all started when I noticed that I had some lumps underneath my armpit and some bruising. I went to my GP several times, but it was not until December 2003 that I was in the shower and collapsed."
Her brother, Duncan, drove her to the hospital. The doctor sent her for blood tests and when the results came back, Naa said that "my first thought was ‘oh no, I’m going to lose my hair."
Diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, she was in hospital for about eight months. Naa started chemo soon after admitted, and had radiotherapy as well with no option of freezing her eggs. A stem cell transplant was her best option.
"My brother Duncan was my donor. I had my transplant at the end of July 2004. I was then in isolation for a couple of months. I was given exercises to do, would go to the gym with my brother, David, and I had to go to a physiotherapist as well."
Before her transplant when she was admitted to hospital, she was bed bound and had to learn how to walk, eat and breathe again on her own. Naa had been on a ventilator when she ended up in ICU.
"I couldn’t taste anything and I gained so much water weight that I couldn’t sleep properly; I was in a lot of pain. I experienced hallucinations at one point. Gradually though, my strength came back. I develop osteoporosis in my knees because I was on high dose steroids for a very long time and radiotherapy didn’t help either. In order to stay awake and keep active, I go for walks."
Her family and friends have been a huge factor of support and in hospital she made friends with everyone. Above all, her healthcare assistant, Angela, helped support her through the lowest days when her family weren’t around.
"As a black woman, to find anyone who is BAME (black, Asian or ethnic minority) talking about leukemia online is quite difficult, and I just want people to know that there is someone out there and they’re not alone."
"I want to now use what has happened to me and make it into something positive."
The 20th September 2012 is a day that Keyur will never forget; as he cycled into work, got changed and thought it was going to be a normal day.
"I felt a little under the weather, so took a paracetamol and had a cup of tea. However, it didn’t have any effect because I collapsed and was taken to Charing Cross Hospital. It was quite scary but going fast in the ambulance was pretty cool. After a whole load of tests, I was told that I had either leukaemia or lymphoma.
"My response when I was told this was 'ok doc, how do we beat it', to which the doctor replied, 'Keyur you heard that I said you have cancer', to which I replied 'I heard you, but I am waiting for that proverbial bus to come and run me over, so tell me how do we beat it'."
After eight days in hospital, Keyur was discharged. After lots of recovery, and just over a year later, he was giving his oath of allegiance as a police officer, so his life changed quickly from having cancer to working for the police.
"I went through several challenges in the five years that followed; divorce, 6 bereavements in 7 months, a major breakdown, depression, anxiety, and going to a very dark place to setting up a charity walk called 'Kiwis Kick Away Cancer Walk', which ran in 2016 and 2018, raising over £10,000 to date. But I also decided to use my experiences to help others, doing motivational videos and writing blogs about the challenges that I faced and overcame. I am also in the process of writing a book about my challenges between 2012 - 2017, called 'Leukaemia, Baxter and I'."
As Keyur thinks about his life moving forward, he says "I want to now use what has happened to me and make it into something positive. I am a proud and passionate Scout and I am doing my bit to leave the world a little better than I found it”
"Having a positive mindset was important to me as I went through my journey. On a daily basis, I would drag myself around the park, just to keep my mind and body flowing, it helped."
Natasha is a breast cancer survivor.
She is the third woman in her family to be diagnosed with breast cancer in three consecutive years.
"It's the last thing I thought I'd be faced with three days after my 45th birthday. Hearing the words 'you have cancer' blew me away. I honestly thought I may die. I remember saying to the doctor as I walked out, 'I will beat this!' "
Diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer in November 2018 (stage 1) , she then had a left-sided mammoplasty in February 2019. "I started chemotherapy in April 2019, for 5 months,12 tiresome rounds. Chemotherapy was yet another unexpected blow as originally my treatment plan was surgery and then radiotherapy."
In September 2019, Natasha commenced daily radiotherapy for 4 weeks, 20 rounds. Currently, she is cancer free just like her mum and aunt.
"I write this from a positive place. Having a positive mindset was important to me as I went through my journey. On a daily basis, I would drag myself around the park, just to keep my mind and body flowing, it helped. My faith, family and friends stepped up in unimaginable ways. The outpouring of love and support was unreal."
Going through treatment was a testing time for Natasha, no two days were the same. There were days of challenges, along with days of making happy and positive memories.
"Having lost Jayden, my baby son 16 years ago, cancer was yet another of life's challenges and if I could deal with the loss of my son, I could and would be able to deal with this cancer. I did, I beat cancer. My motto was, 'I had cancer, cancer never had me!"
Sandra's take away message is that early detection saves lives, "and I'm living and breathing proof of that. Know your normal, know your body and any changes get it checked. I am a breast cancer survivor."
Maria was only 15 when she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.
A 150 metre runner at school, she was quite sporty and after finding a lump on her left leg one day, she put it down to a post injury and didn't think much more about it. Maria arranged a GP appointment to be on the safe side, but wasn't concerned about her health at this stage of her life. She says, "I didn't see it as a priority at the time, but as the lump grew and became more painful, it was getting more serious."
Maria went straight to A&E, where x-rays were taken and scans, and further tests were conducted. This then led to her being transferred to the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital for a biopsy. After the biopsy, it was diagnosed that she had osteosarcoma.
"I was so worried on hearing this, they had to explain to me that it was a form of bone cancer. What shocked me, was that they said they had caught it early and wouldn't have to amputate my leg."
Maria went through a roller coaster of emotions, and endured a few months of chemo, with an operation to remove the bone cancer and to replace it with a prosthesis. Overall, it was 6-9 months of treatment but her family supported her through it all.
"It was the most terrifying and surreal experience that I've ever been through. But with the help of my loving family, my support system, I managed to finish my chemo and surgery treatment, only to finish and find out 18 months later, that I would need to go through it all again.
"It came back into my lungs and I don't know how I did it, but God pulled me through and was with me every step of the way. I thought, 'if i'd beaten it before, I cam beat it again' and was referred to Christie's Hospital, where it really helped with my mental well-being to talk to other young people with cancer. "
It was quite common to see a relapse, but going through chemotherapy for the second time was a difficult journey for Maria. "Luckily, I had an amazing surgeon who decided to proceed with surgery to remove the tumours, because chemo was getting harder to endure."
But moving forward, Maria can feel excited for her future after being ten years in remission now.
"I am alive and healthy, although I still face daily struggles and sometimes beat myself up for not accomplishing certain goals at certain times. I hardly ever step back and appreciate what I've been through and how I am still here."
Maria has such an inspiring story, because to be diagnosed with osteosarcoma at such a young age, but she now works as a clinical trial coordinator in oncology.
"After my diagnosis, and rarity of this disease, it turned my passion into cancer research to help other young people. Whilst having sarcoma at any age is hard, cancer is such a taboo subject in the black community but it's real and we need to educate to overcome it."
"Sharing my story gives me the strength to carry on. I continue to raise awareness and offer support to the cancer and chronic pain community and anyone else I can inspire to come forward to share their story and have those difficult conversations."
Charlene was 27 years old and a mum to a 5 year old, when first diagnosed with osteosarcoma - a rare form of bone cancer in her left knee.
Within a few weeks of diagnosis and further testing, she under went a full knee replacement where the tumor was removed along with half of her thigh bone and the lower leg bone, all replaced with metal.
"I had no clue how my life and body was about to change forever"
After surgery, she received an intense amount of treatment in the form of medication, that came with the same effects as chemo.
"I was sick and unable to walk. I was home bound and put on a huge amount of weight and received a limited amount of support. My mental health suffered and I felt isolated, overwhelmed with anxiety and traumatised. I developed an extreme lack of body confidence and refused to show my scars."
In order to walk independently again, physical rehabilitation took almost 2 years and against doctors' advice, Charlene weaned herself off the heavy cocktail of medications, as her body had had enough.
"I began to fight back as I could no longer bear to see my son seeing me like this anymore."
Over the years, she has had further surgeries all caused by cancer and her immune system has never fully recovered.
"Everyday is a challenge and I have now adjusted to life with permanent mobility issues, multiple chronic and invisible illnesses.
Sharing my story gives me the strength to carry on. I continue to raise awareness and offer support to the cancer and chronic pain community and anyone else I can inspire to come forward to share their story and have those difficult conversations.
I celebrate my 'new normal' and have fully accepted that I'm a truly a rare gem."
"What I learned is that cancer is indiscriminate. The disease doesn't care."
"In early 2019, I started feeling extremely fatigued, with flu-like symptoms that wouldn’t clear up, weakness and sore joints. Eventually, whilst visiting friends miles from home, my symptoms became unbearable.
Alex went to A&E, and less than 24hrs later, a haematologist explained to her that she was in the late stages of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia.
"I felt like I’d been punched in the face. I was rushed to The Christie Hospital in Manchester to begin immediate chemotherapy, and waited weeks for the news that I was one of the lucky few who carried the genes that made it very likely that chemotherapy would be an effective cure."
Alex spent the summer of 2019 in hospital isolation. The medical staff who treated her were truly outstanding, but the reality is that cancer is the most isolating experience a person can go through.
"As a young black woman, I didn’t fit in on the largely white, elderly male ward or group counselling sessions. In the hospital, people stared at me with pity.
“You’re too young for this… You must be extremely unlucky!”
I spent a long time feeling so angry at the injustice of it all- what did I do to deserve this?!
What I learned is that cancer is indiscriminate. The disease doesn’t care."
Alex has been in remission for a little over a year now. The chemotherapy appears to have eradicated the faulty cells that were making her sick, but she will forever live with the shadow of cancer looming over her.
"Every cough, ache and pain snaps me back to when I was days away from death and had no idea and I can’t imagine a time when I don’t feel the panic of relapse any longer, but for now, I count my blessings that I’m around to feel anything at all."
If you would like to share your own personal cancer story with us, please contact us