December is Childhood Cancer Awareness month, and it will always be a memorable time for Dr Vicky Forster – but not for the right reasons.
In this inspiring piece for the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG) newsletter, Contact, she describes her own experience of cancer as a child and how it motivated her to pursue a career as a cancer researcher. She also tells the story of how a celebratory tweet when she gained her PhD made it around the world. Vicky’s now a scientist at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research – part of our Newcastle Cancer Centre. Thanks to Vicky and the CCLG for allowing us to share her story here.
On Christmas day in 1994, whilst the rest of my family were playing games in the lounge, I was asleep in bed upstairs feeling absolutely exhausted, despite the fact that I had only woken up a few hours previously. I had been ill for a few weeks with what the doctor thought was a chest infection. Later that week, when I still wasn’t better, my mum took me to the doctor again who sent me for a blood test.
On New Year’s Eve 1994, I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and admitted to St. Bartholomew’s hospital in London for a two and a half year program of treatment. All of my family were extremely shocked about the diagnosis, but we coped – my parents taking it in turns to either be in hospital with me in London, or with my little sister Becky who had just started school back home in Essex. It was hard being off school for so long at that age, as I really loved being in school, but the teachers at the hospital were incredible for keeping my passion for learning going.