Shortly after giving birth, Kylie Dixon was diagnosed with blood cancer.
Her problems began when she started to experience night sweats and itchy legs, but she put them down as normal pregnancy side-effects.
Her symptoms persisted even six months after giving birth to her son and, when she initially mentioned the issue to her GP, the doctor put it down to scabies – a skin condition caused by mites burying into your skin.
It was only when she developed a lump in her neck that she was sent off for more urgent testing to get to the root of the problems.
This was six months after giving birth to her son, Jake.
After extensive testing, the new mum was told that she actually had an aggressive form of Hodgkin lymphoma, a rare type of blood cancer.
When she was diagnosed in January 2011, Kylie, from Newton-le-Willows, was devastatingly told that she could have just eight weeks left to live without treatment.
Subsequently, she underwent nine months of chemotherapy treatment at Whiston Hospital and was thought to be in remission.
A short time later, Kylie relapsed and had to undergo another three rounds of chemotherapy, as well as a bone marrow transplant at Royal Liverpool University Hospital to help boost her immune system.
Kylie, now 32, said: ‘Going through cancer treatment is the hardest, most gruelling journey I’ve ever experienced. A lot of the symptoms I first experienced, like the itchy legs and night sweats, are common in pregnant women so everyone just assumed they were normal signs.
‘To be told at that point that I only had eight weeks to live was absolutely devasting, especially with a new baby,’ she recalls. ‘What should have been the happiest time of my life suddenly turned into a living nightmare.’
Thankfully Kylie responded well to the treatment and, now is exactly a decade on from her diagnosis – but wants to encourage others to get help if they feel something isn’t right.
Kylie said: ‘For a long time I knew that something wasn’t right with my body, but because I was expecting a baby, a lot of those symptoms were thought to be signs of pregnancy. It wasn’t until I heard the word ‘cancer’ that my worst nightmare was confirmed.
‘At the end of the day nobody knows your body like you do, so it’s really important that people go to their GP with any signs of symptoms. When cancer is found early it can be easier to treat and increase your chance of survival.’
She adds that she had a huge amount of support from friends and family, which helped over the last decade.
Kylie is also grateful for the incredible support she’s received from her friends and family over the last ten years.
She said: ‘Cancer treatment is really tough, both physically and mentally. But I was lucky to have a brilliant team of people around me to help me get through it.
‘Since having cancer, I’ve been able to turn my life around and make a huge effort now to eat a healthy diet and do plenty of exercise. In all honesty I feel better and fitter today than ever before.’
She wants to share her story to raise awareness and to urge everyone to run, walk or jog 5K for Cancer Research UK.
She said: ‘Without treatment I wouldn’t be here today and that’s why I want to do everything I can to support people going through cancer right now.
‘I hope people across the north west will get behind Race for Life at Home and help raise funds for research to develop gentler and more effective treatments for cancer.’
Anna Taylor, Cancer Research UK’s spokesperson for the north west, said: ‘Kylie is living proof of how research saves lives and we are hugely grateful to her for sharing her experience of cancer so openly and honestly.
‘She is a true inspiration and we hope that others will be encouraged to support Cancer Research UK so that we can continue to save more lives in the future.
‘The truth is, COVID-19 has slowed us down. But we will never stop and we are absolutely determined to continue to create better cancer treatments for tomorrow.
‘Even though we have to Race for Life differently this spring, nothing is going to stop us running, walking or jogging 5K to raise money to help beat cancer.
‘That’s why we need as many people as possible across the North West to sign up to Race for Life at Home this April, to stand united and do something extraordinary to help beat cancer.
‘We’re constantly monitoring the COVID-19 situation and are working hard to move our mass participation Race for Life events to the autumn and to make sure they can go ahead safely and with all necessary COVID-19 guidelines in place.
‘We’d love to invite as many people as possible to Race for Life at Home this spring, then physically come together in the autumn to join us for Race for Life.’