Moving out of home to start university is a big step for any young person, but for 20-year-old Katie Holland, it was a massive milestone she feared she might never see.
Three years ago the Bridlington girl was dealt a devastating blow when she was told by doctors she had cancer and as a consequence endured traumatic chemotherapy.
The treatment took its toll on Katie’s health and academic plans but despite her setback, she remained positive and got a late 18th birthday present in May 2014 when she was given the all-clear.
Now Katie has moved to Liverpool Hope University to study pyschology which she says is her dream.
She said: “I think a lot of people my age take it for granted that they can go to university with nothing standing in their way. It wasn’t like that for me.
“I watched all my friends from school going off to do their chosen academic courses while I was starting a course of chemotherapy. That was so, so hard.”
Katie had never had any health worries until May 2013 when she began to notice itchy rashes appearing on her skin.
Doctors at first thought she was anaemic and then diagnosed eczema, but no cream or medicine had any effect.
It took until October that year when further tests were carried out after Katie’s limbs became swollen to uncover the devastating truth.
Her symptoms were in fact a sign of Hodgkin Lymphoma, a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system.
Katie explained: “It just wouldn’t sink in. I’d gone from thinking I had eczema to being told I had cancer.
“My mum was with me when I found out at Leeds General Hospital and she just burst into tears.
“I could not believe what was happening.
“I’d made so many plans. I was studying for a BTech in health and social care and was just about to apply to university. All of a sudden everything was up in the air.”
Hodgkin Lymphoma can occur at any age but mostly affects young adults in their early 20s and older people over 70. Around 1,900 people are diagnosed with it in the UK every year.
Katie immediately began a four-month course of chemotherapy, followed by radiotherapy.
She said: “The treatment was very difficult. I hated losing my hair and feeling poorly all of the time, and the thought of ever having to do that again is terrifying. But I had to do it. I’m beyond grateful for the second chance at life I’ve been given.
“I now have to have check-ups every six months for the next five years, but I try to stay as positive as I can.
“There’s no cancer in my body right now and that’s the important thing.”
Following the completion of her BTech and further A-levels at East Riding College, Katie is excited to begin a new chapter in her life at university though admitting to missing mum Carolyn, dad Mike, brothers Simon and Jamie and sister Laura.
She said: “All my friends went off to university while I was having treatment and, while I loved hearing about it, I was so sad that I wasn’t getting to go.
“Now it’s my turn and I plan to make the most of every single moment.
“It was scary being told I had cancer and I had no one to go to for advice because at the time I didn’t know anyone my age in the same position.
“I want others to know you can get through it, because you don’t know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.
“I still have days where I don’t feel great, but I power through them, because I fought this hard to be here, I’m not giving up now.”
Katie is supporting Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens fundraising campaign, which aims to help find kinder treatments and cures for children, teens and young adults with cancer.
To donate or fundraise in support of Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens, visit cruk.org/kidsandteens.