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Kate Bowman avatar
Kate Bowman

The Story Of A 23 Year Old Cancer Survivor

Fundraising for Cancer Research UK

226 %
£4,070.00
raised of £1,800 target
by 191 supporters
Donate
  • Event: Pretty Muddy Glasgow 5k 2015 11:30, 20 Jun 2015

Cancer Research UK

We pioneer life-saving cancer research to help beat cancer sooner

Charity Registration No. in England and Wales 1089464, Scotland SC041666

Story

Hello 💗

Thanks for following my journey. 

Just your average twenty something... Life was all about University, the gym, dancing and gymnastics. Dancing was my passion, I was a cheerleader for Motherwell Football Club and in 2012 aged 21 I fulfilled a dream of dancing abroad for 6 months which included dancing for Laidback Luke in Malia, Crete. I was fit, active and 'healthy'... never did I imagine I had a little 'friend' who also enjoyed my life and was thriving off it inside me whose aim was to eventually take it from me... 

At the beginning of 2014 after years of wrong diagnosis i was rushed into hospital whilst on holiday in Tenerife and after an extended 'holiday' I was allowed to fly home and was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called high grade serous carcinoma.. Aged 23 I was the youngest person in the UK specialists had seen. Being diagnosed so late on with such an aggressive cancer It had already advanced to stage 3C and had spread from my ovary upwards. In April 2014 I was given less than a 30% chance of surviving. I always said I would never become a statistic and wanted to prove the numbers wrong. Specialists think the cancer may have began when i was a teenager which made me sick to think it had been living inside me for so long.

Over night I had gone from your average 23 year old to one of the people you hear about and think "It will never happen to me." I was that person... But I was ready to fight and had my amazing family and friends by my side the full time and if it wasn't for their support i don't think I would have made it through this nightmare. I love you all more than you will ever know. 

In a bid to keep my life as 'normal' as possible and determined to continue with my law degree I kept my illness quiet and 6 days after being diagnosed I sat my exams... I still can't believe I passed with 6 B's overall. That was one less thing to worry about and it was the summer break... I wasn't jealous one bit that everyone was jetting off abroad and I was going all the way to the Beatson!

I was under the care of the Teenage Cancer Trust who are absolutely amazing. They make such a difference and have a beautiful unit in the Beatson that makes you forget you're in hospital! I wish I could take everyone to show them what it is like. 

I had multiple operations in an attempt to remove the cancer and then began a gruelling 18 rounds of chemotherapy. This is where my £1800 target comes from, £100 to represent each hurdle of treatment I pushed myself through. One of the operations included opening up my stomach from just under my chest to my 'bikini line' everyone who knows me will know the sheer horror in this considering I was quizzing the surgeon prior to my first operation how small a keyhole she could do it through! Recovering from this surgery was one of the worst parts of my journey. I couldn't move for weeks and sneezing or coughing was honestly like having my insides put in a blender. I wasn't able to walk properly and was glued to my bed. My amazing Mum and Dad ran after me all day every day.

I was so happy when my bandages came off to see the surgeon had made an unbelievable job of my scar and looking at it now makes me so proud, it reminds me of how far I've come and it doesn't bother me in the slightest. I believe scars are beautiful and are proof that you are stronger than what tried to hurt you. I'll be proud to show it off in my bikini this summer.

From the second I was diagnosed and as shallow as it sounds, like many women one of my many concerns was losing my hair. I was the kind of person that stressed out over the hairdresser taking too much off never mind going from having long dark hair to a 'baldy!' I cried and cried and the thought of wearing a wig horrified me. 6 rounds into chemo I hadn't lost any hair and even the nurses thought I might just have been lucky enough to keep it! Then a few days later I started loosing tiny bits as I brushed it. Funnily enough it didn't actually phase me. Two days later I was sat on the couch with my friend Nicole on a Saturday night with a glass of wine and never one to leave things alone started tugging to see if anymore would fall out. I was gently tugging and then it started coming away from my scalp in masses. At that point I couldn't wait to get it all off!!! Unbelievably I didn't cry once throughout the hair loss process and two days later my auntie shaved it off for me. When I put life into perspective, a head of hair meant nothing if it was going to give me a longer life! Strangely enough my hair continued growing throughout chemo and as soon as I stopped treatment it grew in like wild fire twice as thick and so healthy... I guess its true what they say, shaving your hair is the best hair treatment girls! The one thing that infuriates me is when people heard I had Cancer instead of asking how I am the first thing they'd ask is "have you lost your hair?" As if it was some sort of gossip that they had to know. That in itself shows how shallow people can be. Is the world so image obsessed that even when its life or death all some people are interested in is how you look?  Another thing that annoyed me was the "Oh but you don't look like you have Cancer" comments. I'd unknowingly had Cancer for years but now that it had been 'labelled' should I all of a sudden have looked different?! The stigma that surrounds the word Cancer is unbelievable and that's something I want to show people isn't always true. 

Everyone always asks 'what does chemo feel like?' I can only describe it as your worst hangover x a million then being hit by a bus... Permanently. But its the most worthwhile hangover you'll ever have. Even though after my first round I was "never going near the Beatson again and stopping treatment!" Funnily enough the Beatson fast became one of my favourite places... Chemo took about 6 hours (9 hours when I had transfusions) and I spent it in a room with around  7 other patients in the Macmillan day unit.. Most people get treatment every 3 weeks but as I had it every week I think I met pretty much every other fighter in the West of Scotland! Chemo was like a day out... We sat wired up to our poison and ate cakes, made jokes and compared side effects. The running joke when meeting someone more than once was "oh you're still alive!" It's a cancer thing... We gradually develop a humour that disgusts your average non cancerous human! The nurses in chemo were amazing and I honestly can't praise them enough. 

Chemo day always brought something weird and wonderful and I'll never forget the day a lovely lady was accompanied by her son, whilst he was at the shop she said to me "he could do with a lovely girl like you" 🙈 boys it's one thing your Mum grafting for you but on the chemo ward with a bald girl that might die before the 2nd date... Probably not the best idea! If only I had a certain friend with me that day... he was right up her street!!! When he came back I told him and we had a good laugh about it. They were such lovely people.

I met hundreds of amazing people during chemo, too many to mention.  I'll never forget any of you or your amazing stories. And my girls that I still see on a regular basis Lynne, Nicole, Rachel and Ann... You are all so special. Each one of them has won their battle too and are gorgeous on the inside and out. 

Worrying about missing uni when I was too ill to start back in September they agreed to let me continue my degree at home and only attend to sit exams... With no lectures, no guidance and severe chemo brain (it's actually a condition and wipes your short term memory!)  I was advised to take time out of studying but i wanted to gave it a go.

I celebrated my 24th Birthday with....... Some more chemo and the week later was my last chemo which Lindsay surprised me with a trip to Newcastle... Only best friends take you away for a weekend of shopping and partying 4 days after 18 rounds of chemo. She also held the bin open while I spewed into it for 6 hours after Tup Tup! Safe to say the emergency chemo line in Glasgow wasn't impressed with the 5am call from Geordie land... I swear to this day the chemo made me sick not the vodka! Pest!  On the upside I didn't need to hold my hair back... It had been thrown on the bathroom floor already! 

In January  2015 after 6 months of self taught criminal law and accounts I attended university to sit my exams... It was the first I'd seen most people from uni for a year and they still had no idea I had cancer . I kept my illness private until I had finished chemo... Not because I was embarrassed or ashamed but because I wanted to prove a point. Cancer doesn't have to ruin your life or make you look unwell if you don't let it. I was over the moon when told I had passed all of my exams and University being so understanding thoroughout my illness made my life so much easier. 

After a year of tears, sickness, transfusions, operations and unimaginable side effects I had a routine scan and amazingly was told the cancer was gone... I am officially in remission!  Nothing will ever come close to the feeling of  knowing i've been given my life back... And nothing will ever hurt me again like it did when I thought I was going to die before my life had even started. It's opened my eyes to what's relevant in life and for that I will be eternally grateful. My outlook in life has changed dramatically and made me more determined than ever in everything i do. To celebrate I was given a little furry life that chews everything in sight... My little puppy Zack!

I'd like to say a huge  thank you to my amazing medical team who I will cherish forever... My Chemotherapy professor, two Surgeons, Research nurse, Macmillan nurses, The 'blood girls' Ward nurses and everyone at the Teenage Cancer Trust, CLIC Sargent & last but never least the tea lady and man who run about mad keeping everyone fed and watered! I could not have asked for a better team to chop me up, ruin my hair, steal my insides or make make cry! You are all unbelievable and I will never forget the amazing things you did for me.

I am now about to start helping alongside the Teenage Cancer Trust giving talks in schools & colleges to fundraise and raise awareness  in what to look out for... Whilst still studying for my law degree in the hope of qualifying as a lawyer specialising in medical cases. I am proof that with determination this illness can be beaten and life goes on. No matter what you go through there is always someone out there going through worse and even through the tears and sick I still feel like the luckiest girl in the world. 

People always say I'm 'too young' to go through cancer but no one should have to go through it and when it comes to cancer, age is only a number. The sooner people realise this, the more hope there is for other people in my position. Early diagnosis is essential to beating this disease and I can't stress enough how important it is to be persistent if you feel like something isn't right. 

At the moment I am trying to get my life back slowly but surely! I still suffer symptoms from chemotherapy which is normal as it can take up to a year to leave your body completely. The fatigue is the worst part these days as my head says party and my body says bedtime! Most people would love to be in bed chilling out most of the time but after nearly a year Netflix gets pretty boring! My hair is back better than ever and no one can believe how thick and long it is already! Each day still has its hurdles but as long as I'm going forward then that's all that matters to me. It will be 8 years of remission before I officially loose my 'Cancer club' membership but to me this is an advantage as I know that now if I feel something isn't right then it will be picked up straight away! 

Thank you so much to those who have donated or have shared my story, if I could give every one of you a big cuddle I would. You really have no idea how much of a difference passing on my story or a small amount of money can make. Cancer affects most of us at some point in life directly or indirectly and I'd love if my story could help make someone else's journey better.

If Im lucky enough to raise £1800 the dream is to raise £18,000... I know, crazy eh! But I'm a firm believer that to get where you want to be in life you have to aim for the top and I'd rather give it a shot than not try at all.

On the 20th of June I will be taking part in Pretty Mudder for the people I know whose bodies were too tired to fight this horrible disease anymore... Hopefully my symptoms are better by then or I'll be crawling it! Hey little fighter you make the sky brighter .Sleep tight... Until we meet again 😘

Baldtobrunette@hotmail.com


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Photos

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  • After operation number 2. I refused to take my eyelashes off for surgery 🙈
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