Teenager shares her courageous cancer fight during Gogglebox

A courageous teenager who has been fighting cancer for seven years shared her moving story with the nation when she featured in a special night of TV to raise awareness.

Sunday, 1st November 2020, 7:00 am

Rebecca Henderson, 14, who dreamed of being an Olympic swimmer, explained the impact cancer has had on her young life in the short film broadcast during Celebrity Gogglebox for Stand Up To Cancer.

Known as ‘the mermaid’ of her family, she was diagnosed with a very rare type of soft tissue cancer when she was just eight and is currently fighting the disease for the fourth time.

Rebecca’s parents Paul and Tracy first noticed a swelling around her thigh and knee but as she was a sporty girl they thought it was a sports injury.

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Rebecca is fighting a rare form of cancer for the fourth time.

Her GP said it might be a blood clot so sent her to the RVI hospital in Newcastle for tests.

Paul, a plasterer, said: “They did find a blood clot in her groin, but also a tumour in her thigh and another in her knee.

"When they mentioned cancer, I fainted. I couldn’t breathe and I sparked out on the floor.”

Rebecca, from Billingham, started chemotherapy to treat four large tumours and two smaller ones.

Rebecca with mum Tracy, dad Paul and brother Jake, 12.

She suffered terrible side effects including sickness, constipation and diarrhoea and she could only walk on tip-toes.

It also affected her mood, with anger and anxiety and she lost her hair.

In 2016 Rebecca returned to swimming and gymnastics again, but the day after her 11th birthday it was confirmed the cancer had returned.

She suffered further relapses in 2017 and 2019, which have seen her go through surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and blood transfusions.

Rebecca on her 14th birthday.

Rebecca’s weight and mobility have also been affected with her needing to use a wheelchair.

She said: “I was thinking why is this happening to me – have I done something wrong?

"They told me how my cancer was really rare and how interesting that was, and I was like ‘I don’t want to be interesting, I just want it to go’.

"I started thinking could I even make it to next year?”

Mum Tracy, who works at Brougham Primary School in Hartlepool, said: “It’s really difficult watching Rebecca go through so many different treatments and be in pain.”

The family are supporting Stand Up To Cancer which aims to accelerate new cancer tests and treatments.

Rebecca has begun a new treatment on a clinical trial which is having positive results with less severe side effects.

Tracy added: “No child or family should have to experience what we have been through, so now we’re determined to do what we can to help more children and adults survive and find treatments that are much kinder with less side effects.”

Lisa Millett, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the North East, said: “We’re so grateful to Rebecca and her family for helping us to continue our mission."With the help of people in Billingham and beyond, we can keep funding incredible scientists and save more lives.”

People can support Stand Up To Cancer at www.standuptocancer.org.uk/

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