A young woman whose ‘scratch that wouldn’t go away’ turned out to be cancer is urging others to check for symptoms after battling chemotherapy throughout lockdown.
Evie Daniels was just 24 when she began suffering from an itch, with irritation so bad that her shoulder sometimes sometimes bled from her scratching.
When a small lump developed she ignored it, and put night sweats and tiredness down to the warm summer weather in 2019.
It wasn’t until last year that Evie received a heartbreaking diagnosis of Hodgkins Lymphoma on March 12 – days before the UK was plunged into its first national lockdown.
Nothing could have prepared her at such a young age for the year that followed of painful treatment which has left her facing the tragic prospect of infertility.
“The prospect of facing your own mortality in your twenties isn’t something you expect to happen,” Evie said.
The brave 26-year-old has now undergone a year of gruelling chemotherapy during the pandemic, and wants to help others spot the signs in time for an early diagnosis.
Evie suffered a plague of skin complaints including “unbearable” irritation, but dismissed them due to her busy schedule.
But when the weather turned colder and she was still getting night sweats she knew she needed to book an appointment with her GP.
The sweet shop assistant, from Bridlington, said: “[I was] suffering with excruciatingly irritated skin that was itching all the time, resulting in me scratching myself until I was red raw and bleeding,” which she subsequently blamed on the hot weather at the time.
“I started showing symptoms with unbearably itchy skin, tiredness and the odd night sweat, but with it being summer, it was impossible not to blame all my symptoms on the weather.”
She says in hindsight, that she is fairly certain that she came across a lump a few months later in November but “just tried ignoring it”.
On April 6 2020, Evie received her first dose of chemotherapy despite fears that she could be left unable to have children as a result of the treatment.
And due to coronavirus, an initial offer to attempt embryo retrieval has fallen flat after the centres that were available closed during the pandemic.
The news came as a devastating blow to her and her “incredibly supportive” boyfriend of six years Tom.
She said: “When we heard the fertility news, we were both really disappointed but I decided rather than dwelling on the prospect of trying to have a fertility treatment, and push back my chemotherapy even further, I’d just drive straight in.”
Evie went on to receive chemotherapy every second Monday from then onwards for six months.
“It was around then that my hair began falling out, which was a bigger loss than I had prepared myself for,” Evie went on, talking about the beautiful long brown tresses she once had.
“I couldn’t cope with having it come out in clumps anymore, so we made a fun situation out of it and I Facetimed some family and shaved my head.”
Describing her treatment, Evie said that the chemotherapy had a horrible effect on her, and not just physically – on her mental health too.
She says the treatment didn’t only change the way she sees herself but it affected her memory as a result – which she says is often referred to as “chemo brain”.
“It just makes me very forgetful and unable to focus on anything for a long period of time, I think the mental effects and physical strains still have a big effect on me now,” she said.
Brave Evie is now six months out of treatment and has “everything crossed for a good result” in her next scan.
“I had my first post-treatment PET scan in December 2020, but my oncologist wasn’t 100 per cent happy with giving me remission status as he saw a few bits and pieces in the scan that he wanted to keep an eye on which he thinks could be left over activity from the chemotherapy.
“So I’ve got another PET scan in March and two weeks after that I’ll find out my status on whether I’m in remission or if I need more treatment – I’ve got everything crossed for good results.”
After her own experience, Evie has joined forces with friend and fellow lymphoma survivor Charlotte Cox who has launched the charity Lymphoma Out Loud aimed at spreading awareness about the cancer.