Childhood Cancer Awareness Month: Sophie’s story

In October 2020 Sophie was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). Today she shares her story to help raise awareness of the disease during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Sophie and her family
Sophie and her family

Sixteen-year-old Sophie was diagnosed with ALL at The Royal Marsden after her leg became sore then red and swollen. This turned out to be an infection caused by her weakened immune system. Sophie’s leg was operated on at St George’s hospital, where she spent a month in the ICU, and was transferred back to The Royal Marsden in January 2021 for intensive chemotherapy treatment. Having progressed to maintenance treatment, Sophie is now returning to school to start her A-Levels. She said: 

“I first noticed something was wrong when I was painting a set as part of my GSCE in technical drama. I thought it was because I’d been sitting awkwardly but it kept getting worse and, after a week, it was getting hard to walk. We saw an osteopath who told us to go to A&E – at this point it was red, hot and swollen too. A blood test produced worrying results, so I was referred to The Royal Marsden for a bone marrow biopsy where I was diagnosed with ALL. When the doctors told my parents, they got emotional, but I was more concerned about my leg at that point. I knew leukaemia was a type of cancer but that was it, I wasn’t even sure where in my body it was.

“I was really responsive to the chemotherapy and, luckily, it didn’t make me feel too bad, just some aches, nausea and my hair fell out. However, the complications caused by the leukaemia have been harder to deal with. After the operation, I had a large gash on my leg which only healed last month, I contracted Stevens-Johnson syndrome – which caused painful blisters on my skin – as well as a fungal infection on the inside of both my thighs and inside my body.

“My school have been really supportive and, as my GCSEs were done by teacher assessment due to COVID,

"Plus, I’m really looking forward to focusing on my three subjects – drama, art and photography. I chose them as I’m a creative person and love drawing, cooking, and musicals. Every time I went to hospital, we’d listen to a musical in the car and, while I was staying in The Royal Marsden’s Oak Centre for Children and Young People, I really enjoyed art classes organised over Zoom. After I finish my A-Levels, I want to go to drama school to study technical theatre to eventually work backstage in theatres, films or TV.”

Supported by The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity

Supporters of The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity have enabled the Charity to help improve the patient experience for children and their families. The Charity contributed £16 million to the cost of the Oak Centre for Children and Young People when it was built and have since funded the creation of break-out spaces such as the Pandora parents’ lounge and outdoor play areas.

The Charity raises money solely to support The Royal Marsden, a world-leading cancer centre. It ensures Royal Marsden nurses, doctors and research teams can provide the very best care and develop life-saving treatments, which are used across the UK and around the world. From funding state-of-the-art equipment and ground-breaking research, to creating the very best patient environments, The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity will never stop looking for ways to improve the lives of people affected by cancer.