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The tragic truth behind the smile - the girl with two rare illnesses

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: February 10, 2014

Laura Dunn

Laura Dunn

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AT one point, Laura Dunn described herself as lucky - she is anything but.

Having lived with the chronic digestive illness Crohn’s disease – for which there is no known cure - for seven years, the 22-year-old from Stapenhill had learned to live with bouts of pain, so a troublesome hip was not a cause for major concern.

But when Laura was forced to go to hospital after her illness, which causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system, flared up, it transpired that she was also suffering with a rare form of bone cancer - Ewing’s sarcoma – which develops in fewer than 30 children a year, and even then is more common in boys.

So luck has been in pretty short supply for Laura who is currently in the midst of a gruelling chemotherapy schedule.

But had it not been for the hospital visit due to the pain caused by Crohn’s, it could have been a lot longer before she discovered she also had cancer.

“I had a pain in my hip for two years, on and off a couple of days at a time and it wasn’t until I was admitted to hospital in Derby with my Crohn’s that I found out,” she said.

“They found an abnormality. It turned out to be a tumour and five days later they told me I had cancer.

“But the pain in my hip was nothing compared to the bowel pain and aching tummy so I was quite lucky that my Crohn’s flared up.”

And so the treatment began. Laura, of Somerset Road, had already had parts of her bowel removed three times prior to finding out she had cancer, so regular hospital visits was nothing new to her.

She then lost the right side of her pelvis in a bid to try and combat the illness, which has had its own knock on-effects.

Laura said: “My right leg is about three inches shorter than my left leg. I’ve got a permanent limp and I’m walking with crutches. I can’t go on long car journeys as I can’t stay in the same position for too long and I need help putting my socks on as I can’t bend down.”

Being diagnosed with a violent and disruptive illness at such a young age would be enough to get anyone down, without the added trauma of cancer, but it has not dented the former Pingle School pupil’s outlook on life.

She simply shrugs in the belief that her luck must surely turn at some point.

She said: “I found out I had Crohn’s around the time of my GCSEs. I was only in school for four months out of two years which was tough, but I’m not somebody who will be beaten, I will fight everything.

“There have been days when I’ve been down but it’s not long before I’m bouncing around and am bubbly again. I’m somebody who shrugs everything off. It affected everybody else more than me.”

As for the future, Laura admits she is unable to look too far ahead.

She continued: “The chemotherapy finishes in June and after that I will have to be closely monitored. They wanted to do radiotherapy to blast it away but they might not be able to because of the Crohn’s. It means the chances of the cancer coming back are higher. It’s something different every time I go in. Doctors say I’m a complicated case.

“I just want to get through the next four months, get back on track and go back to living as a ‘normalish’ 22-year-old.”

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