Christmas joy for former cancer patient

Jess Lonsdale and baby George

A young former cancer patient has celebrated an extra special Christmas this year.

Jess Lonsdale, 23, from Lytham, has spent her first Christmas in a while, without any health worries.

Jess was nearing the end of her three year Drama and Theatre degree at Aberystwyth University in 2014 and had just got engaged to childhood sweetheart Tom, when she found a lump in her neck.

Various tests were booked, but one of the appointments clashed with one of her final exams.

Jess said: “I tried to change this as I didn’t want to miss my exam and potentially fail my degree, but the doctor insisted I needed to be at the appointment. It was at that point I knew it was serious.”

Following various tests, doctors confirmed Jess had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at just 20 years old. Christmas that year was fraught with worry.

In January 2015, Jess started her treatment at Blackpool Victoria Hospital and was also told that she would need to retake her whole final year even though she was only 12 weeks away from completing the course.

She started four cycles of chemotherapy, given every two weeks, which she received on the long days spent on the Haematology and Oncology unit.

Doctors had also told Jess that they could not guarantee that her fertility would not be affected.

With a little persuasion in an email from mum Kila, Aberystwyth University allowed Jess to send in her coursework in order to complete her degree. This kept Jess focused throughout her treatment.

“I just wanted to get to graduation.” Jess said.

The treatment took its toll. She spent her 21st birthday on the Haematology Unit, with her family using sick bowls as party hats.

Fiancé Tom, high school and college friends helped Jess with her coursework, which she managed to submit just after her chemotherapy treatment.

She passed her degree with a 2:1.

Jess had started her radiation when she was invited to her graduation with doctors rearranging her treatment times to give her enough time to get to Wales and back.

Jess said: “Getting to graduation is probably one of the proudest moments of my life.

“I had no hair under my cap, but once I stepped on stage to receive my degree, the whole audience stood and gave me a standing ovation.”

In March 2016, Jess and Tom were delighted to discover they were pregnant and George was born in November 2016.

Jess said: “Because of my recovery from the birth and from my treatment, I don’t remember much about last Christmas, that’s why this one is going to be so special.”

Even more special because now Jess is now in remission.

She added: “So much has happened over the last few years, but not all bad because Tom and I got married last year and of course, we now have our beautiful little boy.

“At the time of my cancer, my step-mum’s mum had breast cancer and her grandfather had prostate cancer. Christmas hasn’t been a happy occasion for a while.

“This year however, we have all got the all clear, so we celebrated so many things including the first Christmas George will remember.”

Jessica Jones, Macmillan Clinical Transformation Lead, was Jess’s Clinical Nurse Specialist at the time of Jess’s treatment.

She said: “As Jess’s key worker, I always remember the maturity and true inspiration in the way Jess dealt with her cancer.

“It’s so lovely to see her getting on with her life and it makes my job so worthwhile.”

Jess is now concentrating looking after George and is also trying for another baby.

She added: “Looking back, I can see how my experiences have changed me.

“I don’t worry about little things quite as much, but I also I have realised how important it is to be with the people who are there by your side in the worst of times.

“The most important thing is family and I have really appreciated spending time with mine this Christmas.”

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