Age: 24

Cancer type: bone cancer

“When I was 24 and pregnant with my twins, my left leg was really badly swollen and horrendously painful. I couldn’t walk, I was vomiting, and I was limping really badly. I first went to see my GP in November 2016, but was just told that I’d trapped a nerve and sent for physiotherapy. As I didn’t know what was wrong, I just carried on as normal.  

After giving birth to my twin boys it didn’t go away, it just got worse. I was sent in for an x-ray in May 2017 and told that I had early signs of osteoarthritis. 

At this point I was pretty much on autopilot; I’d just given birth so didn’t have any choice but to carry on.  

Just after my 25th birthday I was sent for a biopsy and I was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. Since my initial x-ray my tumour had doubled in size.  

When I told my mum I was completely hysterical. It was my little brother’s birthday that day, he was 15 at the time and has autism, so he found it really hard to process.   

Dionne after she shaved her hair offI can barely remember the next few months, I think I just blocked it out as a way of coping. I started my chemo at The Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital in September 2017. I had an awful time, but the nurses there were amazing and went above and beyond to help me.  

I didn’t live near a Teenage Cancer Trust unit, so I wasn’t able to be treated alongside other young people. This made me realise how different my experience was as a young person to other people with cancer.  

I was given a Teenage Cancer Trust Clinical Nurse Specialist, Lorraine. She was absolutely amazing, she helped me with everything through my treatment, and even helps me now with things like paperwork and sorting out childcare. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without her! She’s always there at the end of the phone when I need her.   

While I was in being treated Lorraine introduced me to Katie. She was the only other young person I met with cancer, and the two of us became good friends.  

Sadly, Katie passed away from her cancer, which was really hard for me because I felt like I was on my own again. That was the moment that I realised the reality of the life and death situation I was facing. At that point I was so scared, and I felt so grateful for Lorraine for being there.  Lorraine helped me to talk about Katie and deal with the loss – we still talk about her a lot now. She’s a big part of my story.  

My cancer had a huge impact not just on me, but on my children. I found it really tough to leave them every time I had to go in for treatment, and I missed out on things like my daughter’s school play and celebrating Halloween with them.  

 

Dionne after her leg amputationI decided to shave my head in front of my oldest daughter, so that she wouldn’t have to deal with me just coming home bald! I think because I had children, my experience was really different from other young people with cancer, and I really wish that I could speak to other people in the same situation as me.   

Last Christmas was a really difficult time for me. It was my boys’ first Christmas, so I’d wanted it to be really special for them but I was so poorly that I couldn’t even eat my Christmas dinner. 

I knew that I had an operation to amputate my leg coming up in January, so it was hard not to dwell on it. After the operation I didn’t want to go out at all because I didn’t want anyone to see me and stare. In the end I decided that I just had to accept it – it is what it is. I realised that this was what I had been fighting for so long – to be here – so why shouldn’t I get out there! 

Although I have come to accept it, the amputation has completely changed my life.  

I had to go through another nine doses of chemo, finishing in July 2018 after having eighteen doses in total.  

After finishing treatment, I went to Find Your Sense of Tumour - I had such a nice experience, it was so good not being ‘the sick girl’ for once!  

Dionne and her children

My girls are now six and four, and my twin boys are one. I’ve come to the realisation that my life’s not what I thought it would be. My cancer isn’t something I can leave behind, so I try not to dwell on what happened but embrace it – I want to raise awareness about my condition. Sometimes I have a bit of a wobble and think ‘I don’t know if I can do this’. Now, post-treatment I’m starting out a new life on my own.   

This year is this first year it will be just me and the kids doing Christmas together at home, and my mum and brother will come over too. I’m just so excited for the simple things – like being able to eat my Christmas dinner! The most important thing though is that we’re all together.”  

 

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