Young women share story of cancer and friendship ahead of World Cancer Day
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Abbie Price, 22, from Crumlin was 21 when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma in December 2022. Just months later in March 2023, Rebecca, 22, from Belfast was diagnosed with the same cancer aged 21. Neither realised that the symptoms they experienced could point to cancer.
Both Abbie and Rebecca were treated at Antrim Area Hospital and were supported through their ordeal by Teenage Cancer Trust Clinical Nurse Specialist Kerrie.
Kerrie’s role is funded by the part-funded by the Teenage Cancer Trust, and she is one of five part-funded nurses working across five hospitals in Northern Ireland who focus on helping young people with cancer.
On her experience of diagnosis and treatment, Abbie said: “I was so shocked to be diagnosed, it had never occurred to me the lump I had could be cancer.
“That first time I went into the hospital for treatment I did get a wee bit emotional, but I just had to get on with it.
"I went every two weeks for chemo and was always the youngest there, most of the people there were a lot older.
“It made me feel like I wasn’t meant to be there, and it felt lonely. But my mum and dad would come along to keep me company, and Kerrie was there every week too, chatting away.
“Kerrie was so helpful to have around and explained everything that was going to happen and since then she’s been there for anything I’ve needed. She was easy to speak to and no questions were too small.”
Three months into treatment Abbie heard that Rebecca, a friend of one of her close friends Kirsten had also been diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma.
Abbie commented: “Growing up I knew Rebecca through mutual friends, and it was a real coincidence that we both had the same cancer so close together.”
Rebecca first noticed something wasn’t quite right after finding a lump in her neck, but when it appeared to have gone away, she wasn’t too concerned. However, when it came back two months later, and she started getting headaches and blurred vision she went to A&E.
Rebecca explained: “I had a scan, and it was then that they found a 6cm x 4cm tumour, right next to my heart. I was so shocked – it was completely out of the blue.”
Rebecca said meeting with Kerrie helped her understand what was happening and the treatment that she’d have to go through, and Kerrie was able to arrange things so that the two young women could have their chemotherapy sessions at the same time.
Abbie said: “Kerrie fixed it so we could both have our chemo together on a Friday. A wee Friday date was what Rebecca and I would call it.
“At the start Rebecca was really worried about everything but I was halfway through on chemo seven and more positive and helped ease her into it. Each Friday we’d chat about anything and everything."
Rebecca continued: “Abbie was well into her treatment when I was diagnosed. I remember that she said to me that at the start of treatment that it’s mayhem and you don’t feel positive but that after a few weeks it would change."
Abbie said: “I finished my treatment on June 2 – I had my last infusion then rang the end of treatment bell and it was so emotional, such a huge relief. Rebecca came along to watch.
“Rebecca and I got a lot closer during treatment and we’ve kept in touch since. We’ve talked about having a night out to celebrate and I joined a walk Rebecca organised to raise money for Teenage Cancer Trust.”
Rebecca said: “When I had about four sessions of chemo left, I had such a lot of sickness and was in a negative place. I started thinking that I wanted to do something positive and take my mind off things and decided to do some fundraising.
“I decided that I wanted to climb Cave Hill at sunrise, and everyone got involved. More than 50 people climbed with me, like my mammy, sister, grannies on both sides, my boyfriend Sean and his family and Abbie too.
“Just a week after my treatment finished, we reached the top of Cave Hill, just as the sun was poking through the clouds, it was perfect. I had everyone who loved me around me, and I cried a lot of happy tears.
“Our walk up Cave Hill ended up raising £12,500 for Teenage Cancer Trust and my old dance group also raised another £2,000 by doing their summer showcase in aid of the charity. That money will help young people who are in an even worse position than I was.”
The pair are grateful for the support from Kerrie and Teenage Cancer Trust that ahead of World Cancer Day are sharing their story to raise awareness of the work of the charity in the region and encourage more people in Northern Ireland to support its work.
“Teenage Cancer Trust is an amazing charity and has helped so many people like Rebecca and I,” said Abbie. “Without nurses like Kerrie my experience may not have been as positive, the help and support Kerrie provided was second to none, and I can’t thank her enough for everything she has guided me through.”
Rebecca added: “I think that’s it’s so important for people to support Teenage Cancer Trust as it helps fund nurses like Kerrie to be around. Without the support she provided during my treatment my journey would have been a lot more difficult and stressful. During the difficult times nurses like Kerrie genuinely are so important.”