“The experience has definitely changed me as a person, and for the better. I am genuinely grateful for every day”
Hope Stringer, 24, gas broker, Essex
“After suffering with daily headaches for months, I went to see my doctor at end of August 2014 and told him my symptoms. He told me I was suffering with migraines, but I went back a couple of weeks later, after no improvement, only to be prescribed more pain killers. I asked to be referred for an MRI scan. The initial scan showed there was a tumour in my neck but no one knew what it was. Eventually the decision was made that, as it was too deep in my neck to do a biopsy, it needed to be removed. Ten days after surgery, I found out it was soft tissue cell sarcoma.
“I had to take nine months off of work to complete six rounds of chemo and six weeks of radiotherapy. My colleagues and bosses were amazing, making me very aware that the only thing that mattered was that I got better and the job was safe and waiting for me whenever I was ready. My friends were great, and my family were the most amazing people ever – and still are to this day. I don't know what I'd do without them.
“My sister Nancy and I have always been close, but in the last two years we have become closer than ever. She has been a constant pillar of support and my best friend. She knew the rules, I wouldn’t tolerate sadness, tears or depression around my diagnosis so she always managed to stay strong and hold back the tears – and trust me, she is a crier so this wasn’t an easy task for her. She also insisted she would shave her hair off with me to make me feel better, but I told her I never expected her to do that.
“The hair loss wasn’t a huge challenge for me at first, the day I started to see some fall out was the day I had it shaved off. I already had a wig ready for me to wear, so I felt prepared. The hardest part was when it started growing back. I felt my anxiety building up – knowing that soon I would have to ditch the wigs and just show my own short hair. My confidence was at its lowest at this point and I felt miserable about my appearance. This all changed when I found someone who was able to put hair extensions into my short hair – it made the world of difference. I finally felt like me again, it was such a huge relief.
“I have had two courses of radiotherapy, each meant that I was unable to eat as it was too painful to swallow, or chew. The first lot of radiotherapy meant I lost all my tastebuds so eating really was a massive chore. I lost a lot of weight and the funny thing was that was the silver lining for me! It’s amazing how as women, no matter how dire the circumstances, being skinny is always the upside. Obviously I’d have rather none of it happened, but it’s good to see the positives in every situation and for me I got to feel good by being the slimmest I have ever been.
“I am very positive about the future and I have just had scan results back, which show I have no evidence of disease! The experience has definitely changed me as a person, and for the better. I am genuinely grateful for every day – even on the crappy dull days, I always pick my favourite moment of the day because it's important to find something positive in every moment.”