I was diagnosed with stage four cancer when I was 14, and I survived
The inspirational Birmingham student will be five years clear in October
Imagine being told your body is covered in life threatening tumours when you’re just 14-years-old.
Your hair falls out, your friend tells you you’re attention seeking and you’re in and out of hospital every day.
Brave Francesca Wheatley will finally be able to say she’s beaten cancer in October when she gets her five years all clear.
At the tender age of just 14, the Lancashire girl was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, an aggressive cancer that relentlessly attacked her lungs, spleen, heart and arms.
Francesca underwent six months of chemotherapy, seven weeks of radiotheraphy and four operations within seven months of being diagnosed.
The Social Policy student at Birmingham will finally be given the all clear in October – five years after she was handed the devastating news.
She told The Tab: “Around March 2010 I’d lost a lot of weight and I was really tired. I’d fall asleep at eight o’clock every night and I had a lump under my right arm.
“I went to the doctors and they didn’t think it was anything at first, but because I was so pale they did a routine blood test for anaemia and that was when the bloods came back funny.
“After X-rays and CT scans we found out it was stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and it had spread. My central area was riddled in tumours.”
After her granddad tragically died from cancer when Francesca was one, finding out she too had the disease was terrifying.
She added: “All I knew of cancer was that it meant death and that’s it. That was all going through my mind.
“I asked the doctor if I was going to die, and he said ‘I’ll be honest with you, I’ll do everything I can to stop it.'”
Determined not to fall behind because of her treatment, Francesca, from Walley near Blackburn, sat half of her GCSEs early in year 10, while she was on the oncology ward.
With an incredible two As and two A*s under her belt, she said: “Having that focus kept me going. It was quite bizarre, I was in a little room with a drip in.
“Some days I’d go into hospital in the morning for chemo then I’d go to school in the afternoon.”
Amazingly, not everyone was supportive. “One girl told me I was attention seeking. She said all I cared about was looks, which was really hard.
“I couldn’t even comprehend why someone would say that. We fell out about it and I’ve never really been friends with her since, even though I classed her as a good friend before.
“She actually ended up at Birmingham University too. We see each other on nights out and we don’t speak.
“I don’t think that’s something I could ever forgive.”
As well as having to battle the disease, Francesca had to deal with ongoing side affects too, which still affect her today.
She continued: “It was horrible when I lost my hair. At that age I was just starting to get my identity and care what people thought about me.
“I was fortunate I had two really good wigs but still it was just traumatic.
“There was one occasion I was in the shower washing my hair and clumps of it were just coming out in my hands.
“I just burst out crying and my mum had to get me out the shower and finish off washing my hair in the sink.
“It’s so gradual that it’s almost more painful that way. I couldn’t just bring myself to chop it off because I was clinging on to it in the hope it wouldn’t fall out.”
While applying for university her thyroid failed and she still has sharp neuropathic pains today as a result of her chemotherapy.
But in spite of everything, Francesca has never let her diagnosis stop her from achieving her dreams.
Now at Birmingham University, the second year has raised over £9,000 and hopes to break £10,000 when she starts her Survivors’ Bucket List later this year.
Starting in October, Francesca will do something each month she’s always wanted to do.
She said: “I’m absolutely terrified of heights but I’m going to sky dive and abseil. And I’ve always been very precious with my hair and never dyed it, but I’m going to dye it a funky colour.”
You can help Francesca reach her target by donating here and celebrate her reaching her five years clear.