A teacher was just hours from death when she suffered a shocking collapse and found she had a huge tumor in her chest and heart.
Mollie Mulheron, 25, trained as a teacher in Newcastle before heading off to work in the Galapagos Islands. When she returned to the UK earlier this year, she suddenly collapsed in a supermarket in March this year, at which stage hospital medics discovered she had stage four cancer.
Mollie spent 130 days in hospital and had seven surgeries and 800 hours of chemotherapy – and in October she was given the all-clear. Now, she’s written a book aimed at teenagers and young adults to help them through their cancer journeys.
Mollie said: “I’ve been devastated by cancer and almost don’t recognize myself both inside and out; the hair loss was a massive part of my identity and the trauma of coping with a life-threatening illness, the isolation, and the long road back to recovery has changed me forever.
“But I never failed to recognize that I have been incredibly lucky, I’ve met some really positive people in the months I was hospitalized who were not given the same hope with their treatment as me.”
Originally from Skipton, Mollie spent completed her PGCE teaching qualification in Newcastle last year, and before she had completed a degree here, too. But after a relationship breakdown she headed off to the jaw-dropping islands perched off the Ecuadorian coast.
She said: “I loved living in Newcastle and stayed on after finishing my degree, completing a PGCE teaching qualification. But instead of finding work in the UK, I split from my boyfriend and within a week had found an English teaching opportunity in the Galapagos Islands and decided to take the leap.
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“I loved it there it was amazing, but I began experiencing symptoms such as painful breathing, trouble swallowing, an achy and itchy body, constant exhaustion and finally just before I returned to the UK a shocking rash all over my lower body. I had no idea at the time that I was literally hours from dying, and when I returned to the UK I became increasingly unwell without any credible explanation.”
When she did get home, she collapsed in the shops and was rushed to Airedale Hospital in North Yorkshire – there she was diagnosed with stage four Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. She said: “I couldn’t take it in, my parents and my brother were expecting a tropical disease of some sort and instead they got this awful news and I had to be rushed for treatment to St James’s University Hospital in Leeds.
“Despite everything I feel very lucky; I met a lot of amazingly positive people who didn’t have the same prognosis as me, I had a real chance to come through this. Now I’ve been given the all clear and rung the bell to show I am cancer free and my treatment has finished – I’m just so grateful to all the NHS staff for my care.
“When you’re hospitalized, you’ve got nothing but time. I hate not having a goal and just lying around worrying so after about 30 days of this I came up with the idea of writing a book for young people who may have to go through something similar – what the doctors don’t tell you. The diagnosis was all so new and there was nothing out there to inform you.
“When I went online for quality wigs after my hair fell out, there was very little out there so I did some research and included it in the book so the wigs I found were realistic and gave you some confidence back in their appearance. I suffered a lot with what I call leg restlessness, my legs just wouldn’t settle. So I discovered magnesium spray that stopped it, and a drug that helped with it being so uncomfortable and prickly.”
Mollie added that she had been grateful for Macmillan Cancer Support, which helps by providing support including counselling, wellbeing support, financial advice and grants, and even reflexology. She said: “All of these things are so important and yet completely not thought about until you are faced with a devastating diagnosis like I was.”
She’s long supported the charity herself, and helped raise more than £10,000 across Macmillan Coffee Mornings when she was just a teenager. Her book by ella-Live, Laugh, Lymphoma-a young persons guide to giving cancer the middle finger-is something she hopes will make a difference to others.
She added: “My plan is to distribute these books throughout the country on teenage and young adult cancer wards free of charge for anyone who needs it. I have also made it available on Amazon. If I can help just one person through my guide, then getting cancer at such a young age, doesn’t feel like it was all for nothing.”
Mollie’s book – ‘Live, Laugh, Lymphoma – a young person’s guide to giving cancer the middle finger.’ It is available on Amazon. Anyone in need of cancer support can call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00, which is open 7 days a week, 8am-8pm, or visit Macmillan’s Online Community.