Teen first diagnosed with cancer aged 8 suffers with the disease almost half her life

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Rebecca Henderson, now aged 15, was first diagnosed with habdomyosarcoma – a rare form of cancer found in the muscles, bones and soft tissue areas – shortly after her eighth birthday.

During lockdown her cancer returned just as she was finishing treatment following another diagnosis she received the previous year.

Her mum Tracy said Rebecca became poorly with shingles and her legs swelled up last year – which is when she received her fourth cancer diagnosis.

Rebecca is currently receiving treatment at the Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle, Chronicle Live reports.

The teenager said: “When the first national lockdown happened, I was recovering from cancer surgery.

“Although I was glad to be safe shielding at home, it was the strangest experience of my life as we couldn’t leave home. I was only allowed in the garden and we had to have all of our shopping delivered.

“After not leaving our house for five months, it felt very scary to go back to hospital. I was worried I might catch Covid and I’ve never seen the hospital so empty. The corridors were eerily quiet.

“One of the biggest changes in my treatment since Covid, is that if I get temperature, which can happen during my chemotherapy treatment, I have to go to A&E to be checked and do a Covid test rather than being admitted straight to my cancer ward.

“During different treatments for my cancer, I’ve taken part in eight research trials. Most trials have been easy but some have been difficult. One trial I did tested an anti-sickness drug on children. It really helped me and now children all over the world can use it, too.”

Her mum said: “Rebecca was first diagnosed in 2014 and again in 2017, 2019 and 2020.

“It’s really hard on her and every time she completes her treatment, we’re all hoping to hear the ‘all clear.’ We want her to have her life back and have freedom from treatment and hospitals.

“Like everyone, we were locked down in 2020 and Rebecca was just finishing her cancer treatment after a diagnosis the previous year.

“She became poorly with shingles and her legs swelled up. That’s when we received the bad news that the cancer had returned.

“So, all of the treatment for this fourth round of cancer has been during Covid and it’s certainly added additional stress for all of us. We’d read in the news about cancer trials and treatment being cancelled and were fearful it would impact on Rebecca.

“Some of the usual paediatric oncology nurses were moved and we were concerned about the future. But every time we saw Dr Quentin, he reassured us that Rebecca’s treatment would go on and, thankfully, it’s proving really successful at the moment.”

Tracy added: “The last three times Rebecca has needed cancer treatment, she’s taken part in brand new chemotherapy trials, often being the first person on our ward to try the drugs.

“Many of the trial drugs Rebecca’s tried, including chemotherapy and anti-sickness drugs, have proved effective and she’s really glad other patients will now be benefiting from them, too.”

Rebecca has shared her story in support of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, which in 2016, gave a £1million grant to fund four posts within the Innovative Therapies for Children with Cancer Unit, which has doctors, nurses and research staff based at the Great North Children’s Hospital and Newcastle University’s Wolfson Childhood Cancer Research Centre.

Sir Bobby Robson launched his Foundation in 2008 as a fund within the Newcastle Hospitals Charity. It has gone on to raise over £15m to help find more effective ways to detect and treat cancer.

Working within the NHS and in partnership with other leading charities and organisations, the work directly benefits cancer patients in the North East and Cumbria and plays a significant role in the international fight against the disease.