After being given three weeks to live when she was a child, an Accrington woman beat the odds and is now sharing her survival story to give others hope.
Nichola Darlington, of Devonshire Road, was just two years old and 17 pounds when she was diagnosed with a neuroblastoma tumour.
“The tumour was partially removed when I was 19 - apparently, it just peeled away like an orange,” said Nichola.
Her problems began long before diagnosis - from six weeks of age, she was underweight with a swollen stomach and spindly limbs.
Her mother, Ellen, was told to feed her mashed bananas in an attempt to get her up to a normal weight.
“My parents were very overprotective of me, but it was in a nice way. They still are, actually!” said Nichola.
She was diagnosed at Pendlebury Hospital, where she began chemotherapy. An operation proved to be impossible, since the tumour was entangled with the nerve endings in her spine, and she was moved to the Christie for radiotherapy.
“The hospital was like a second home to me, I remember sitting in the playroom for ages,” said Nichola.
Her treatment was cut short, however, when it was revealed her kidneys were in the way of the tumour. Nichola’s parents were told by doctors that their daughter would be dead within three weeks - but they were wrong.
Nichola’s tumour calcified, and after a few operations, no more treatment was required. Now Nichola, 35, works at Eldercare, in Rossendale, caring for the elderly in their own homes. She plans to adopt next year.
However, her childhood battle has had lasting effects.
Nichola said: “I was 13 when I was told I couldn’t have children. It was devastating - I’d always wanted kids. But I came to terms with it as I grew up, and realised I had other options.
“The chemotherapy and radiotherapy shrunk my left leg and foot, too, and now I have to wear insoles - but at least they’re better than the clumpy shoes I had as a kid! One was about three inches higher than the other, they were awful.”
Nichola shared her story on the Faces of Ward 84 Facebook page, which features patients from the Manchester Children’s Hospital, in the hope that she could bring comfort to families going through the same pain as her parents did.
Nicola said: “I’m a much more positive person for having survived this - I live every day as if it was my last. After going through something like this, you just value and treasure things so much more,”