Posted on Thursday 16 January 2020
Kat’s Story – “I know I have a terminal diagnosis, but Charlotte, my CLIC Sargent Social Worker, has given me life.”
Kat, 24, was told she had terminal cancer after more than a year of being misdiagnosed. In the year that followed, she began to feel completely isolated after her partner left her and she lost her two best friends. CLIC Sargent stepped in and helped her to regain her confidence. Here, Kat tells her story.
I was 21 and in my last year of my degree at Royal Holloway in 2016 when I first noticed something wasn’t right. In January I decided I wanted to be fit and healthy for graduation so I started to eat less and to try and be healthier. However, I started fainting on public transport, which happened three times. My mum was really worried and told me that I needed to see a doctor.
I went for a blood test and the doctor said I had low iron so gave me iron tablets. However, after taking them for a little bit nothing improved, but the doctor insisted that I keep trying. At this point I was starting to cough blood, but this just got diagnosed as a chest infection. After another blood test, the doctor rang me whilst I was at home and said I needed to pack a bag and go straight to A&E. Eventually I got put onto an adult ward.
The next morning they looked at the lump on my leg, which they thought was a ganglion as my Nan had had one too. They gave me a blood transfusion and sent me home but told me to come back for tests about my anaemia and coughing up blood. I had different scans and I also saw a respiratory doctor about my lungs. The final diagnosis I was given was vasculitis, even though my blood tests weren’t really indicating it was that.
My symptoms were continuously getting worse. The lump on my leg got so painful I could barely walk or bend it. I had scans on it twice and misdiagnoses and more specialists couldn’t give me answers. I also had more chest scans, but they kept giving me steroids in the hope that this would help with those problems.
After a year and a half of no answers, the lump on my leg growing, and the lesions on my lungs growing, I went to the Royal Marsden in Fulham, where they cut out the lump and I finally received a diagnosis of cancer. At this point I wasn’t scared, I was just glad I had an answer and after such a long time I’d started to think it could have been cancer. The doctor also told me that the cancer hadn’t spread.
After the lump got removed I wasn’t improving so I went for another lung biopsy. When they got the results back they told me that my cancer actually had spread and that is was everywhere and there was no treatment available – it was a terminal diagnosis. At this point I was so unwell I was struggling to eat or move. They didn’t believe I had cancer because I was a young person, and I think this lead to me having no answers for such a long time.
In the year after my diagnosis my partner left me. My two best friends also left me as they said they couldn’t cope, and after a couple of petty arguments they stopped speaking to me and one has even deleted me off social media. Your life is changed completely with the diagnosis, but you just want to feel normal. I felt like it was something nobody would ever be able to look past and that I was now someone who wouldn’t be seen as a romantic option.
I first heard from CLIC Sargent a week after my diagnosis when I received a package in the post. My social worker Charlotte WhatsApp’d me and introduced herself. Charlotte is amazing, she has made the world of difference and I love her for all she’s done. She has felt like my fairy godmother or big sister and she’s always there to talk things through with. I know I have a terminal diagnosis, but Charlotte has given me life.
Charlotte helped to sort out my benefits and the financial support I’m entitled to. She also put me forward to attend CLIC Sargent’s Young Person’s Reference Group (YPRG). I loved it from my first session. It felt great to know that the YPRG is really affecting change and I’m able to leave my mark. Society has written me off, but YPRG made me feel powerful. And it’s where I met my boyfriend Jaymz.