‘I hope you’re not mad at me for not dying’: Cancer sufferer, 20, who was told she had just days to live offers to refund £3,000 in donations for her funeral after being given the all-clear
- Xsara Sanderson was told she had stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma last July
- Gruelling chemotherapy ‘knocked her out’, causing her to stop treatment
A cancer sufferer given who was given just days to live has offered to refund the £3,000 donated towards her funeral after miraculously being given the all-clear.
Xsara Sanderson, of Scunthorpe, was told she had stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma last July after experiencing unexplained weight loss, a drooping eyelids, and chest and neck pain.
After enduring grueling chemotherapy that left the then 19-year-old ‘knocked out’, she decided in November she could not take any more ‘violent’ treatment.
Loved ones set about raising £3,130 via a GoFundMe page to give Miss Sanderson the ‘princess’ funeral she wanted.
But doctors were baffled when a scan taken earlier this month revealed no sign of any tumours, with Miss Sanderson later being declared cancer-free.
Now willing to pay her donors back, she has even apologised to them, adding ‘I hope you’re not mad with me for beating cancer’.
Xsara Sanderson was given days to live after being unable to tolerate chemotherapy to treat her Hodgkin lymphoma. She is pictured left having a biopsy last August. But a scan revealed Miss Sanderson – pictured right in September last year after losing her hair – was disease free
A July 2018 scan revealed Miss Sanderson had tumours throughout her chest (pictured left). After being told she had days left, Miss Sanderson suddenly felt well and requested another scan. Pictured right is the image taken earlier this month – with no signs of tumours
Miss Sanderson first realised something was wrong when she suddenly went from a healthy 11st 7lbs (161lbs) to a gaunt 8st 7lbs (119lbs) in just two months.
Thinking she had flu, Miss Sanderson went to her GP, complaining of losing weight, pains, extreme fatigue and a drooping eyelid.
After having blood tests, she was called up to an appointment at Scunthorpe General Hospital the very next day.
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‘I saw the haematology consultant with my mum and they took more blood, but from the results they already had they said it looked either like lymphoma or leukaemia,’ Miss Sanderson said.
‘My mum cried a lot and I cried a little bit but I just wanted to know out of the two which was the “best” one to have.’
Miss Sanderson was then transferred to Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham, East Riding of Yorkshire, the next day.
A biopsy and further tests confirmed she had stage four Hodgkin lymphoma a week later.
‘I didn’t register it at all, I just lay there in shock,’ Miss Sanderson said.
‘Everybody else was crying but I just went blank.’
Miss Sanderson’s mother Stephanie, 39, added: ‘Finding out she had cancer was just devastating – especially finding out it was such an advanced stage as well.
‘I didn’t even dare hope that she would ever be well again.’
Pictured left before her diagnosis, Miss Sanderson thought she had flu when she suddenly lost weight and developed severe chest pains. Miss Sanderson is pictured right during her first round of chemotherapy, which was not strong enough to clear a large mass
A PET scan revealed Miss Sanderson had tumours throughout her chest, prompting specialists to recommend she start chemotherapy immediately.
Two rounds later, another scan showed the smaller tumours had largely disappeared.
However, there a large mass was still present, leading medics to worry the treatment might not be strong enough.
Miss Sanderson therefore tried a stronger course of chemotherapy but after one ‘violent’ session she decided she could not go through with it.
‘I did the first day of the stronger chemo and was constantly throwing up,’ she said.
‘When my family came to visit me the next day I said “I can’t do this any more”.
‘It was a lot more violent than the first one and honestly it was killing me.
‘If I’d stayed on it I believe I’d be dead.’
Miss Sanderson claims she suffered near-constant vomiting, alongside infections.
She also became unable to stand or even eat and drink.
‘When I went home for a week after it I was completely knocked out,’ Miss Sanderson said.
‘My family tried to persuade me to do it so I went back to the hospital to try again for the other session but I just couldn’t.
‘It made me feel so terrible so I had to leave again.’
Doctors warned Miss Sanderson further treatment would be invasive and involve either a stem-cell transplant or more aggressive chemotherapy.
It was then, at the end of November last year, that she decided to stop treatment.
‘The decision for me was an easy one but when I thought about other people, that’s what made it difficult,’ Miss Sanderson said.
‘People told me I was selfish. I kind of understood and I did feel I was being selfish and had to explain I honestly had nothing left in me to do it anymore.
‘All I could imagine was my mum waking up one day and finding me and how that would make her feel or her having to tell my partner that he’s no longer got somebody.
‘Or her having to tell my brother or my sisters – it was really upsetting to think about.
‘My mum understood but quite a few friends stopped talking to me and still don’t talk to me now.’
Although her mother may have been understanding, she still struggled to accept her daughter’s decision.
‘I was absolutely devastated when she said she was stopping chemo,’ Stephanie said.
‘I thought she’d given up. I thought “this is it, we just sit and wait for her to die”.
‘To think you’re going to outlive your kid is horrendous.’
Pictured left in January, Miss Sanderson tried to enjoy her ‘last Christmas’ but developed a chest infection on Boxing Day. She is pictured right with her boyfriend Joshua Carnaby last February at a charity ball. It was around this time Miss Sanderson began feeling well again
Told she did not have much time left, Miss Sanderson tried to enjoy the rest of her life while she had the chance.
‘The doctors said they couldn’t determine how long I would have – it could be days, weeks or months but that it wouldn’t be years,’ she said.
‘Christmas was very poignant, I didn’t know if it would be my last one with the family.
‘It was lovely.’
However her festive joy was short-lived when Miss Sanderson developed a chest infection on Boxing Day and was rushed to Scunthorpe General Hospital’s A&E department.
Doctors said she needed to be fitted with drips, but Miss Sanderson refused.
‘At this point the thought of something being entered into my body was making me feel sick because of how awful the chemo was before,’ she said.
‘I asked if I could have it in tablet form because I wanted to go home and was told even if I did take the tablets I would have days to live.’
‘I said to him “you don’t know me, I’ll be fine”.
‘The antibiotics wiped it out within a week-and-a-half and I obviously didn’t die.’
Another tell-tale symptom was Miss Sanderson’s droopy eyelid (pictured in September 2018)
Told she was on ‘borrowed time’, a family friend set up a GoFundMe page in January to fund Miss Sanderson’s funeral.
‘I didn’t want my mum to worry about money for a funeral when she was already worrying about me being dead,’ Miss Sanderson said.
‘In some ways getting to plan my own funeral was nice – I was getting things I would have wanted.
‘But at the same time, no-one wants to plan their own funeral.’
Miss Sanderson decided she wanted to be a ‘princess’ for the day, complete with a horse and carriage.
She even chose her set list, which included Close To You by The Carpenters, Christina Perri’s A Thousand Years and Your Song by Elton John.
‘I decided on no flowers apart from on top of the coffin,’ Miss Sanderson said.
‘The coffin wasn’t a massive interest for me as it was going to get burnt anyway during the cremation so I wasn’t that bothered.’
Miss Sanderson’s mother Stephanie (pictured left) claims she was ‘devastated’ when her daughter was diagnosed and opted to stop treatment. Pictured right before her diagnosis, Miss Sanderson claims she used to be an ‘angry person’ but the ordeal has made her ‘nicer’
While planning her funeral, Miss Sanderson was surprised how well she felt and requested another PET scan last January.
‘[My doctor] asked why and I just said “I think it’s gone, I can’t feel it anymore so I know it’s not in my body”, she said.
Miss Sanderson eventually had the scan on March 18 and was given the miraculous results on the 25th.
‘The whole time I was waiting on the results I was adamant it had gone,’ she said.
‘A lot of people just thought I was delusional.
‘When we went to get the results my nurse was there and she already had a massive smile on her face so I could tell it was good news.
‘The doctor said it had all gone and that there was no sign of any cancer there at all.
She added: ‘My doctor is absolutely dumbfounded.
‘He has no idea how it’s gone as the amount of chemo I had wasn’t enough to get rid of it.’
Miss Sanderson claims her decision to stop treatment was branded ‘selfish’ and certain friends even refused to speak to her, and have still not made contact. But Miss Sanderson claims her mother understood her decision. She is pictured on the right with her friend Bethany Wattam
With doctors being clueless as to what caused Miss Sanderson to beat her disease, she can only credit her ‘positive mindset’.
‘I’ve no idea what’s caused the cancer to disappear,’ she said.
‘A lot of people have told me I’ve willed it away – people say if you think positively, positive things will happen, I don’t know.
‘I think having a positive mindset, and of course the chemo, has helped.’
Sharing the news on an online post, it read: ‘When I stopped treatment I was told my cancer would continue growing and quickly as once it becomes aggressive it stays that way.
‘I was told just after Christmas I had days to live.
‘Last week I had my final scan to see how much cancer was left and to go over further options.
‘Today I got the results that my cancer has actually gone.
‘I stopped my treatment, and I still beat cancer because I’m clearly a hench f***.’
Miss Sanderson went on to explain what she will do with the money that has been donated.
‘For anyone that has donated to my funeral fund, if you would like your money back could you send me an inbox please,’ she said.
‘It would take 30 days to receive it from the GoFundMe, but then I would be able to send it back to you.
‘The rest of the money (I know some people don’t want it back already) will be going to the Teenage and Young Adult unit at Castle Hill in Hull, where I had my treatment.
‘I love you all and I hope you’re not mad with me for beating cancer even though my mum told you I’d die.’
Now given the all-clear, Miss Sanderson hopes to train as a carer and believes the ordeal has made her a better person.
‘I used to be so angry with life – you think I’d be angrier about getting cancer but it made me a nicer person throughout most of it,’ she said.
‘I became more thoughtful and I was just so grateful for everything I did have rather than focusing on what I didn’t.
‘The cancer diagnosis was a wake-up call and the all-clear was a clean slate.
‘I’m now seeing friends, planning to move in with my boyfriend Joshua [Carnaby] and thinking about starting the gym as I can’t walk very far at the moment.
‘I’m going to plan holidays and do everything I ever wanted to do and thought I would never get the chance to – I have a proper zest for life.’
WHAT IS LYMPHOMA?
Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph nodes, which is the body’s disease-fighting network.
That network consists of the spleen, bone marrow, lymph nodes and thymus gland.
There are various types of lymphoma, but two main ones: non-Hodgkin’s and Hodgkin’s.
Both have much better prognoses than many types of cancer.
WHAT IS HODGKIN’S LYMPHOMA?
Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a type of cancer that starts in the white blood cells. It is named after Thomas Hodgkin, an English doctor who first identified the disease in 1832.
It affects around 1,950 people each year in the UK, and 8,500 a year in the US.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma is most common between the ages of 20 and 24, and 75 and 79.
Five-year survival rates:
The survival rates are much more favorable than most other cancers.
- Stage 1: 90%
- Stage 2: 90%
- Stage 3: 80%
- Stage 4: 65%
- a painless swelling in the armpits, neck and groin
- heavy night sweating
- extreme weight loss
- shortness of breath
- lowered immunity
- a family history of the condition
- those who are overweight
- stem cell or bone marrow transplants
WHAT IS NON-HODKIN’S LYMPHOMA?
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can occur anywhere in the body but is usually first noticed in the lymph nodes around sufferers’ necks.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma affects around 13,700 new people every year in the UK. In the US, more than 74,600 people are diagnosed annually.
It is more common in males than females, and it is commonly diagnosed either in a patient’s early 20s or after the age of 55.
Five-year survival rates:
Survival can vary widely with NHL.
The general survival rate for five years is 70 percent, and the chance of living 10 years is approximately 60 percent.
- Painless swellings in the neck, armpit or groin
- Heavy night sweating
- Unexplained weight loss of more than one-tenth of a person’s body
- over 75
- have a weak immune system
- suffer from celiac disease
- have a family history of the condition
- have had other types of cancer
It depends on the number and locations of the body affected by Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Therapy typically includes chemotherapy.
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