St Helens mum reveals heartbreak at being given eight weeks to live after cancer diagnosis
A mum whose "pregnancy symptoms" turned out to be signs of advanced cancer is inspiring people to take part in a charity's fund-raising event.
Kylie Dixon, 32, thought her itchy legs and night sweats were side effects of pregnancy and doctors even suspected she might have scabies.
But when the symptoms persisted six months after giving birth to her son, Kylie was devastated to be diagnosed with an aggressive form of Hodgkin lymphoma – a rare type of blood cancer – in January 2011.
Heartbreakingly, she was told she had up to eight weeks left to live without treatment.
Kylie, who lives in Newton, had nine months of chemotherapy at Whiston Hospital and was thought to be in remission.
But unfortunately she relapsed not long afterwards and needed another three rounds of chemotherapy, as well as a bone marrow transplant.
Thankfully Kylie responded well to the treatment and, exactly a decade on from her diagnosis, she is now enjoying life cancer-free.
She has recently taken up running and has completed charity runs and half marathons. She has also re-trained as a fitness instructor.
Following her experience, Kylie is determined to share her story to help others and is urging everyone to run, walk or jog 5km for Cancer Research UK.
It comes as thousands of people from across the UK have vowed to take part in Race for Life at Home this April, either alone or in small, socially distanced groups, and raise money for life-saving research.
People can visit raceforlife.org to sign up for £5 and will receive a race pack which includes a medal.
Money raised will help scientists find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, helping to save more lives.
Kylie 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 of pregnancy. Even now I’ve still got scars on my legs from all the scratching, which doctors put down to scabies at the time.
“It was only much later when I developed a lump in my neck that I was sent for more urgent testing, which was six months after giving birth to my little boy. To be told at that point that I only had eight weeks to live was absolutely was devastating, especially with a new baby. What should have been the happiest time of my life suddenly turned into a living nightmare.
“One of the first questions I asked was whether I was going to lose my hair. It was such a massive part of my identity and some ways I felt like I’d rather die than lose it. In the end I got used to feeling bald but I still felt embarrassed about being seeing me looking that way.”
Kylie has now made a full recovery and she is keen to encourage other people to see their doctor if they are concerned about any changes in their body.
She 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.”
Kylie is also grateful for the support she has received from her friends and family over the last 10 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.”
Because of what she has been through, Kylie knows exactly how vital it is to keep raising funds for life-saving research and is urging people across the North West to show their support.
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.”
Cancer Research UK is predicting a £300m drop in income caused by Covid-19 over the next three years, which could put future medical breakthroughs at risk.
All 400 mass-participation Race for Life events across the UK were cancelled last year to protect the country’s health during the pandemic.
And as the country emerges from lockdown, the events scheduled for this spring and early summer have also been postponed. This includes the Race for Life 3k and 5k which had been due to take place at Haydock Park Racecourse in July.
A live broadcast on the Cancer Research UK Race for Life Facebook and Race for Life Instagram pages on Saturday, April 24 will include an energiser from a fitness expert, as well as inspirational messages of support from people who have been through cancer.
Participants are then invited to run, walk or jog 5km. Organisers are inviting participants to share photos and videos on social media using the hashtag #RaceatHome
Anna Taylor, Cancer Research UK’s spokesman 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 Haydock.”
The Race for Life 3k and 5k, which are open to all ages and abilities, have been rescheduled and are now due to take place at Haydock Park Racecourse on Sunday, October 17.
Sign up to Race for Life at Home this April and visit raceforlife.org or call 0300 123 0770.