I was told not to worry about my itchy skin – now I’m fighting for my life at 22

A WOMAN who suffered from itchy skin claims doctors told her not to worry – but now she is fighting for her life at just 22.

Rebecca Dennis, from London, was reassured that most people with her symptoms were fine.

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Rebecca Dennis discovered she had a life-threatening condition when she was 22Credit: Jam Press/Rebecca Dennis
Rebecca's condition began with a rash, fatigue and a lump in her neck, pictured

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Rebecca’s condition began with a rash, fatigue and a lump in her neck, picturedCredit: Jam Press/Rebecca Dennis

She had itchy skin and felt tired.

But it was a lump on her neck, discovered in April this year, that prompted her to seek help.

After Rebecca consulted her dentist about the lump, he referred her to London Kings College Hospital to have her checked out.

She was seen in hospital in May and said: “The Kings College Hospital haematologist I saw said it was probably nothing, and 98 per cent of the patients she saw who had the same symptoms as me turned out very well.”

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The consultant supervising Rebecca’s ultrasound was more worried and did a biopsy of the mass.

The results came back as “slightly suspicious”, and another biopsy was taken.

A week later, on June 15, Rebecca’s results revealed she had cancer.

She was diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), a rare type of T-cell lymphoma cancer.

Fewer than 200 people in the UK are diagnosed each year in the UK.

Rebecca, an apprentice policy analyst, said: ‘When I first heard the words ‘it’s cancer’, everything calmed down for me.

“The doctor kept talking to explain the type of lymphoma I had, but I couldn’t really hear what she was saying, I was so in shock.

“Once I could, I just asked her if it was curable, and once she said yes, I knew that meant I was going to have to do chemo.”

Most people are diagnosed with ALCL at an advanced stage, according to Lymphoma Action, but Rebecca says hers was caught “early.”

Since her diagnosis, Rebecca has been told she will have to undergo six rounds of chemotherapy at Royal Marsden Hospital.

Rebecca is currently undergoing her first cycle of chemo which started on July 21.

She says the treatment left her “very weak and nauseous”.

“I don’t want to lose my hair and look sick, I don’t want my loved ones or strangers to look at me and feel sorry for me,” Rebecca said.

“I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that my hair is going to start falling out very soon and what that will mean for me.

“It’s been hard on my parents – I don’t think anyone expects to have to support their child through cancer treatment.

“They’ve both been amazing, helping me with whatever I needed, my mum became my carer.

“My boyfriend, Michael, 25, and his family have also been incredibly supportive, offering me whatever I needed to get help.

“It’s particularly important for me to be able to lean on him because he’s someone I can talk to about anything, at any time of the day or night.”

Because the cancer was caught early, Rebecca was able to undergo surgery to save her eggs before chemo rendered her sterile.

Although she struggles to understand the diagnosis, Rebecca says she is grateful for all the support she has received.

She said: “Emotionally it’s been very difficult to come to terms with the fact that I’m 22 and have cancer.

“I find myself thinking it’s not fair and wondering what I’ve done to deserve this. But really, I think I have to be grateful for the little things.

“I am grateful that it was detected so early, that I have an incredible support system around me and that I am being cared for in a hospital like Royal Marsden.

“I’ve always struggled with my mental health, and that’s obviously been a blow to me. But I find talking things out and being honest is so powerful.”

Rebecca is now sharing her diagnosis to raise awareness about checking for lumps.

She said: “I want to tell young people how important it is to check your body.

“I know it can be easy to put things off and see if they go away.

“Sometimes doctors can make you feel like you’re overreacting and tell you to wait and see.

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“But at the end of the day, you know your body, you have to live in it every day.

“If something is wrong, push for tests and answers. It’s your health that’s at stake, not theirs.”

Rebecca wants young people to be aware of the symptoms of cancer

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Rebecca wants young people to be aware of the symptoms of cancerCredit: Jam Press/Rebecca Dennis
The apprentice policy analyst started chemotherapy for her cancer

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The apprentice policy analyst started chemotherapy for her cancerCredit: Jam Press/Rebecca Dennis
Rebecca said:

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Rebecca said: ‘My boyfriend, Michael, 25, and his family have also been incredibly supportive, offering me everything I needed to get help through this’Credit: Jam Press/Rebecca Dennis



I was told not to worry about my itchy skin – now I’m fighting for my life at 22

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