Passionate dancer, Julie Keen, tells how Dorset Cancer Care Foundation kept her dancing during lymphoma treatment.
Julie, from West Moors, was looking forward to a fresh start last September after she moved into a new flat and started a new job, but that was ruined when she noticed a small lump on her neck.
Her GP prescribed anti-inflammatory medication and she kept on dancing, feeling increasingly breathless, until she coughed up blood one day.
The ensuing x-ray revealed a blockage in her chest; subsequent CT scans and a biopsy showed an aggressive form of cancer.
The start of treatment
She was told that treatment had a 70% chance of success and she began six rounds of chemotherapy.
Recounting her story, she said: ““I’m a very positive person and was determined to have a plan of action if the news was bad, but even so, being told you have something called Primary Mediastinal Diffuse Large B cell Lymphoma was terrifying.”
“Obviously I had to tell my new employers that I had cancer and I was signed off, which made me feel extremely guilty,” she said.
“It was a struggle living on statutory sick pay. And between every round of chemo I developed a dreadful chest infection and even sepsis at one point. I was completely knocked out by it.”
Using her suffering to help others
Julie’s long hair also came out in handfuls.
She said: “I was distraught. But one day I had enough and went and had it all shaved off.
“I then donated my hair to the Little Princess Trust to make wigs for sick children and went out dancing in defiance to show it wouldn’t affect me. But of course it did.”
She added: “Being without hair isn’t just upsetting because of how you look and feel it’s also uncomfortable.
“I was cold and my head was sore. I also developed neuropathy (a loss of feeling) in my fingers – a side effect of the chemo – and I could no longer open doors and things properly. Everything seemed pretty hopeless.”
Julie heard about Dorset Cancer Care Foundation (DCCF) through the Macmillan cancer charity.
DCCF supporters across the county raise money to fund financial grants for Dorset families struggling because of cancer.
Beating cancer. Together.
Julie said: “With DCCF’s help I was able to buy some hats and pretty headscarves which made me feel more normal. They also bought me a dexterity aid for my hands which was a huge help.
“Meanwhile my parents, my friends and my fellow Ceroc Dorset dancers, including my teachers Brett and Caroline, showered me with love and support.
“Cancer is lonely. The days are long and I would never have got through this without them.”
Now in metabolic remission, there are no cancer cells left in her body.
“My new start turned into a nightmare almost overnight. But I’m thankful for the treatment I have had, the friendship and love I have been shown and the generosity of strangers, who through DCCF have helped keep me smiling.
“I’m still weak, but I am booked into a dance weekend in East Sussex with friends this month (June) and I will be hitting that dance floor with a new found passion for life.”
To donate to DCCF, or find out more about their campaign visit their website.