Laurel was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in 2006, after suffering from a sore throat and difficulty swallowing. She was a single mum of three, with her youngest daughter being aged just 13. Her cancer was too aggressive for surgery, so she received a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. After a difficult time in treatment, Laurel received the news that she was in remission in 2007. Over 10 years on, she remains free from cancer – ‘I am forever grateful. I wasn’t like this before – I have been given a second chance and I don’t look at the negatives’.
In February 2006, Laurel visited the GP because she was struggling with a severe sore throat. After a couple of appointments, she was sent for some tests at the hospital. These went on for a few months, and by the time she was diagnosed with cancer in June 2006, she could barely swallow water. “I went from having a sore throat and feeling unwell, with hot and cold spells, to being unable to even swallow my own saliva without gagging. I was losing weight fast and knew something was very wrong.”
The hospital tests were a gruelling process. Laurel recalls, “I had a lot of tests. The hardest part was when I was told I needed an endoscopy as I was frightened. The uncertainty of not having a diagnosis immediately was difficult. I wanted answers but for a long time nobody could give them.”
The endoscopy results showed that Laurel had a cancerous tumour blocking her oesophagus, which is why she couldn’t swallow. Getting the diagnosis was difficult but as a mother of three, Laurel says ‘by far my biggest challenge was having to tell them I had cancer’.
Laurel’s cancer was aggressive, so surgery was not a possibility for her. She was instead treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy at the same time. This was tough on Laurel, who needed to be fed through a tube, and struggled to walk as a result of the treatment and extreme weightloss. However, with her older sister Alice by her side every step of the way, Laurel made it through. ‘I had every possible side effect, but I’m a strong woman’.
Laurel’s treatment ended in October 2006, and by March 2007, she was told that she was officially in remission. The following summer, she was able to begin eating soft foods again and by the end of year, she was feeling better. Although she says it took three years to feel fully recovered, both mentally and physically, Laurel says ‘I’m a different woman since I had cancer. I’m a million times more positive. I see the best in everything and I love life’.
After completing her cancer treatment, Laurel went back to college to train in British Sign Language. She works as a special support worker for children with special needs and lives in South-West London.
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