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‘Don’t be scared’, says cancer battle teen Charlotte

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: May 10, 2014

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WHEN Charlotte Barsby was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, she was consumed with the fear that she would lose her hair.

Sure enough, through a series of intensive chemotherapy she saw her hair fall out, and lost her eyebrows and eyelashes.

She was sick, and felt poorly every time she went for treatment, which meant her missing a lot of school.

Yet this 17-year-old took it in her stride, and says even now – almost four months after she was given the all-clear – it seems like ‘just one of those things’.

“It might sound weird, but I still don’t see ut as serious. I never really felt like it was real, or like it was too much of a problem, even though it can be life-threatening.

“I didn’t ever think ‘this could be the end’, and I didn’t dwell on it. I knew some of the statistics, but I chose not to think about it,” she told the Mail.

Charlotte was studying at home in Highgrove Close, Stretton, when she discovered a lump in her neck.

Having just recovered from a cold, she presumed it would be something to do with that – but it didn’t go away.

A few months later, she went to the school nurse, and then to see the doctor.

By May 28 last year, she and her mum Claire had received the news she was suffering with cancer.

“I had loads of tests, and because I didn’t have any other symptoms. We were told it could be glandular fever, which can develop into Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

“When they told me, I just thought ‘Oh God, my hair’. It was so long,” she said.

Scans showed that Charlotte had tumours in the lymph nodes around her body, including a large mass across her chest.

Shortly after she was diagnosed, she sat her GCSEs at De Ferrers Academy, and managed to come out with great results.

She even attended the prom, using a shawl to cover up the tubes running into her body.

Chemotherapy, which took place in the young persons’ unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, became part of her routine.

Both Charlotte and her mum said the district nurses who came to see her every other week were ‘marvellous’.

Charlotte said: “I have not dwelled to much on anything. I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to happen, and it wasn’t good, but I just wanted to get it over with and dealt with.

“It all fell into place.”

The teenager’s attitude astounded her mum, who said she treated it ‘just like it was a cold’.

“I have found it extremely hard, but I had the full support of my family. It took a lot, as it was a big thing to swallow, but with the right sort of help and assistance, you get through these things.

“Now we just have to move forward and focus on being happy,” Ms Stone said.

Charlotte, too, said she was feeling positive about the future, though added that her attitude had not altered about life in general.

“People say they appreciate every day when they’ve been through something like this, but if you do that you would not have the chance to feel guilt of feel bad about things.

“Just because you have been through something life-changing, it doesn’t mean your life has to alter,” she said.

It is not unusual for young people to be diagnosed with cancer. Last month, 26-year-old Charles Hickman, from Shobnall, died from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, after fighting the disease for more than a year.

Another Staffordshire teenager, Stephen Sutton, who has helped raise millions for the Teenage Cancer Trust, is having a very public battle with terminal bowel cancer.

Charlotte knows she is one of the lucky ones.

She is now focusing on her AS-levels, with exams due to start over the next few week in art, critical thinking, general studies, history and English Literature.

She said the last year still hasn’t sunk in.

“It’s weird, but it was just normal, even though it would be unusual for some people

“I thought it was weird seeing the people around me upset because of it, but then I thought it must have been hard for them to see someone they love who was a shadow of their former self,” she added.

Before she became unwell, she said she gave little thought to the issue of teenage cancer. Her view has now altered considerably.

“Young people think they are invincible, and like something like this isn’t going to happen, but you can’t be ignorant about a situation.

“If you do find something, you should go to the doctors, because that’s what they’re there for. People shouldn’t be scared or embarrassed,” she said.

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