Ceroc fan Julie Keen, who went from suffering a stiff neck to being diagnosed with aggressive lymphoma just weeks later, told how a local cancer charity has helped keep her dancing.
Julie, from West Moors, moved into a new flat in September last year, just a month after starting a new job with a service engineering company.
She was looking forward to a ‘new start’ when she noticed a tiny lump in her neck.
Her GP prescribed Julie with anti- inflammatory pills and she continued to practise her passion for Ceroc dance. But she also noticed she was becoming increasingly breathless.
In November Julie suddenly coughed up blood one day and was sent to hospital where an x-ray picked up a blockage in her chest.
A CT scan and a biopsy were performed and she waited anxiously for the results.
She said: “I’m single and my parents Valerie and John who are both in their 70s live nearby and of course they were worried sick.
“I’m a very positive person and was determined to have a plan of action if the news was bad, but even so, being told you have something called Primary Mediastinal Diffuse Large B cell Lymphoma was terrifying.”
Julie was advised that although she was suffering from a very aggressive form of cancer, treatment carried a 70 per cent success rate and she began six rounds of chemotherapy.
“Obviously I had to tell my new employers that I had cancer and I was signed off, which made me feel extremely guilty,” she said.
“It was a struggle living on statutory sick pay. And between every round of chemo I developed a dreadful chest infection and even sepsis at one point. I was completely knocked out by it.”
Julie’s long hair also came out in handfuls.
She said: “I was distraught. But one day I had enough and went and had it all shaved off.
“I then donated my hair to the Little Princess Trust to make wigs for sick children and went out dancing in defiance to show it wouldn’t affect me. But of course it did.”
She added: “Being without hair isn’t just upsetting because of how you look and feel, it’s also uncomfortable.
“I was cold and my head was sore. I also developed neuropathy (a loss of feeling) in my fingers – a side effect of the chemo – and I could no longer open doors and things properly. Everything seemed pretty hopeless.”
Julie heard about Dorset Cancer Care Foundation (DCCF) through the Macmillan cancer charity.
DCCF supporters across the county raise money to fund financial grants for Dorset families struggling because of cancer.
Julie said: “With DCCF’s help I was able to buy some hats and pretty headscarves which made me feel more normal. They also bought me a dexterity aid for my hands which was a huge help.
“Meanwhile my parents, my friends and my fellow Ceroc Dorset dancers, including my teachers Brett and Caroline, showered me with love and support.
“Cancer is lonely. The days are long and I would never would have got through this without them.”
Julie is now in metabolic remission with no detectable cancer cells in her body.
She keeps a before and after x-ray of her chest on her phone to show that the huge mass that was once there, is now gone.
She said: “My new start turned into a nightmare almost overnight. But I’m thankful for the treatment I have had, the friendship and love I have been shown and the generosity of strangers, who through DCCF have helped keep me smiling.
“I’m still weak, but I am booked into a dance weekend in East Sussex with friends this month (June) and I will be hitting that dance floor with a new found passion for life.”