Posted on Thursday 7 March 2019

in News

From a cancer diagnosis to achieving a dream of competing at Crufts

Lauren Ashby, 15, from Horsham, has achieved her dream of competing at Crufts and will be taking part in three different events this weekend with a dog that has helped her through her cancer treatment.

Lauren with her dog Percy

Lauren with her dog Percy

Lauren has qualified with two-year-old Cockapoo, Percy, to compete in two agility competitions and one crossbreed showing after winning 17 competitions this year.

It’s my dream to be competing at Crufts and no matter what the result it’s amazing to get to this stage. The main thing for me is that Percy enjoys it because he has really got me through my treatment and has given me something to focus on.”

Lauren, 15

Lauren’s mum, Dominique said: “We’re so proud of Lauren that she has come this far. She’s been through so much and has built such a great rapport and bond with Percy.

“In dog agility, you have to plan everything ahead and I think it really helped Lauren. Even when she hasn’t been well it’s given her something to aim for and to look forward to.”

Lauren started dog agility classes five years ago and instantly fell in love with it. Lauren then went on to get her own puppy, Percy, to train with, but sadly six months later she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at just 13-years-old in January 2017.

Lauren’s mum, Dominique, said: “In the build-up to Christmas, Lauren had a really persistent cough, she was really tired, not wanting to do anything, which wasn’t like her at all.

“We just thought it maybe it was just that time of year or she could have a virus. We noticed she’d lost weight, she had a lump in the side of the neck and she started having night sweats. Now we know about the condition, literally, every one of those of things is listed as symptoms but we didn’t have a clue at the time.”

Initial trips to the GP were dismissed as a virus but as Lauren’s condition worsened the family called 111 and eventually ended up in a local hospital for tests.

Within a few hours of being in hospital, the family was told that Lauren may have lymphoma and they had to be transported miles from home to Southampton.

Dominique said: “When we were told Lauren had cancer it was weird, you feel almost detached because of the shock. You go into autopilot and just try and sort everything out at home and with work. At the same time, you’re also trying to remain positive for Lauren and her sister who was facing her GCSE’s at the same time.”

Lauren underwent six months of chemo and steroids, starting in Southampton and was eventually transferred to the Royal Marsden. Initially, treatment was successful however a routine scan showed that the cancer had come back.

Lauren then underwent further chemotherapy treatment, an autologous stem cell transplant, followed by radiotherapy spending a lot of time in hospital.

During this difficult time, Lauren’s family stayed at one of CLIC Sargent’s Homes from Home, CLIC Haven, in Southampton, where families can stay for free to be near their child and they also received support from Steph a CLIC Sargent Social Worker at the Royal Marsden.

Dominique said: “I didn’t know anything about CLIC Sargent before I met people from the charity. They offered us a grant to help us with parking fees and other costs. We were also referred to the Home from Home, which was amazing and it helped to keep us together as a family.

“Steph helped us with things like applying for carers allowance, the blue disability badge, all the things you just wouldn’t know about. Having Steph there takes a layer of the stress away I feel like I can ask her anything and if she doesn’t know the answer she will find out.”

Lauren has now finished her treatment and is planning to study Animal Management at Agricultural College in September. But for now, Lauren is keen to giving something back by raising awareness.

Lauren said: “I hope that other young people with cancer see me and Percy and know that it’s possible to get out there and follow your dreams. I also hope that people are inspired to donate to charities like CLIC Sargent because they made such a big difference to me and my family.”

CLIC Sargent are asking supporters to get behind Lauren and Percy by sharing pictures of their pets and using the hashtag #PawsupforPercy. Be sure to tag CLIC Sargent on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!

If you'd like to, please donate to CLIC Sargent here

For more information about CLIC Sargent, an interview or images, please contact Jack Wilson on 020 8752 2833 or jack.wilson@clicsargent.org.uk. Out of hours contact 08448 481189.

About cancer in children and young people

Today, 12 more children and young people in the UK will hear the devastating news that they have cancer. Treatment normally starts immediately, is often given many miles from home and can last for up to three years. Although survival rates are over 80%, cancer remains the single largest cause of death from disease in children and young people in the UK.

About CLIC Sargent

When cancer strikes young lives CLIC Sargent helps families limit the damage cancer causes beyond their health. CLIC Sargent is the UK’s leading charity for young cancer patients and their families. We provide specialist support, to help and guide each young cancer patient and their family. We will fight tirelessly for them, individually, locally and nationally. For more information, visit www.clicsargent.org.uk

Note to sub editors

Please note that the name ‘CLIC Sargent’ should not be abbreviated to CLIC, and that the word ‘CLIC’ should always appear in capitals, as above.

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