A mother and daughter from Harrogate - whose lives have been affected by cancer – are calling on families to join them and enter Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life as a special pledge this Mother’s Day (Sunday, March 11).
Last year Annie Coyne, 17, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), a type of blood cancer that starts from white blood cells in the bone marrow, took part in the Race for Life event in Harrogate even though she left hospital just two days earlier.
The brave teenager took part with her mum, grandma and best friend, despite struggling with severe pain in her legs and back which restricts her mobility.
Despite her own diagnosis and ongoing treatment she is determined to help others and as well as backing this year’s Race for Life, Annie has raised nearly £10,000 for cancer charities and has her sights set on becoming a paediatric nurse on the Teenage Cancer Trust ward at Leeds General Infirmary, so that she can help other children going through treatment.
Annie was diagnosed with cancer in September 2016 after going to A&E at Harrogate District Hospital suffering with severe back pain, something her and her mum Helen thought was a pulled muscle.
Later that night a blood test was taken and early in the morning concerns were raised that it was something much more severe than back ache.
Annie, who is a pupil at St Aidan’s Sixth Form, said: “When the doctor came to see me with the initial results I just had a feeling it was going to be bad and didn’t want my mum to have to hear it, so I sent her out. When they told me it was something much worse I just broke down and kept repeating ‘just please don’t let it be cancer’.”
The next morning the results, stating that Annie had a type of leukaemia, were confirmed by another doctor and she was sent straight to Leeds General Infirmary and admitted to the children’s cancer ward. She was there for the next 42 days.
Annie’s mum Helen, 47, said: “In an instant everything changed. One minute we were waiting for something to help with back ache the next we were spending over a month in hospital with Annie being treated for cancer. It moved incredibly fast and it was so scary to see your child go through all this.”
Annie began intensive chemotherapy immediately and during the first few weeks suffered a number of side effects and setbacks including a blood clot on her brain, which led to her having numerous seizures and a stroke.
An MRI scan also revealed that Annie has aculta spina bifida, gaps in the vertebra, and also suffers from osteonecrosis in her legs and ankles, a condition that occurs when there is loss of blood to the bone causing the bone to die, which causes significant pain and results in problems walking meaning she sometimes has to rely on crutches or a wheelchair.
Before diagnosis Annie had just joined St Aidan’s Sixth form to start her A-Levels, but took a year out to have treatment. She re-joined in September 2017 after a break of 1 year and 4 months and had to start in the year below her age group to catch up.
Annie said: “It was really nerve-racking going back to school. I had to make new friends and struggled with being known as the girl with cancer. Keeping up with my work has also been harder due to ‘chemo brain’ which means I struggle a lot with my short term memory as well as struggling to form words and the speed of my writing, which could be because of my stroke.
“Cancer is really scary for anyone especially for my age group so when people found out I had cancer it made it even harder to make friends. That’s why the family I have formed on the cancer ward in Leeds has been even more important. They know exactly what I’m going through and can support me. I’m determined to keep up with school work and do well in my A-Levels so I can be a nurse, but it is hard.”
Annie is still undergoing maintenance chemotherapy which keeps her system clear of the disease and will complete this in December 2018, over two years since her diagnosis.
Helen said: “Annie has been amazing throughout her diagnosis and really is an inspiration to all who meet her. She’s been fantastic with other children and parents new to the hospital ward helping them understand different stages of treatment and trying to put them at ease.
“Although Mother’s Day is usually about celebrating mums I’m just so proud to be her mum and have her here to celebrate together, and I know others aren’t so lucky.”
This summer Annie will return to Race for Life 5k in Harrogate on Sunday 15 July to share her story, raise awareness of childhood cancers and help fund more research.
Every year, around 1,500 children are diagnosed with cancer in England, including around 500 young people are diagnosed with ALL.
Cancer Research UK is working to fund research to find new, better and kinder treatments for children and young people diagnosed with cancer. It aims to bring forward the day when no young person dies of the disease, and ensure that those who survive, do so with a good quality of life.
This Mother’s Day Annie and Helen are calling on other mums and daughters to follow their lead and sign up to Race for Life at www.raceforlife.org
Taking part in Race for Life is a hugely moving experience as people come together to remember loved ones lost to cancer, celebrate the lives of those dear to them who have survived or support those going through treatment.
Helen, said: “I’m so proud to sign up to Race for Life alongside my daughter. As a family, we’re determined to do all that we can to help raise money for life-saving research. Every participant can help make a real difference.”
One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some stage in their lives, but the good news is more people are surviving the disease now than ever before. Cancer survival in the UK has doubled since the early 1970s and Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of that progress.
Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, is an inspiring women-only series of 5k, 10k, Pretty Muddy, Half Marathon and Hiking events which raise millions of pounds every year to help beat cancer sooner by funding crucial research.
Emma Colbourne, Cancer Research UK’s Harrogate Event Manager, said: “We are so grateful to Annie and her mum for their support.
“By following their lead, and signing up to Race for Life, women across North Yorkshire can make a real difference in the fight against cancer. Money raised will help Cancer Research UK scientists and doctors find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease, helping save more lives.
“Taking part in Race for Life is a special and unique experience. Every step participants take will help to support crucial research for patients in North Yorkshire and across the UK.”
To enter Race for Life today visit raceforlife.org or call 0300 123 0770.