Northamptonshire teenager speaks out about her battle with a rare cancer ahead of World Cancer Day

The 15-year-old is speaking out to help raise awareness about cancer within young people

Ahead of World Cancer Day on Friday (February 4), a teenager from Northamptonshire is sharing her story to help raise awareness for others.

Olivia Maguire, was diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis, a very rare condition, when she started suffering from headaches and swelling on her head last year.

The 15-year-old was diagnosed during the pandemic, which had an impact on her friendships, school, body image and confidence.

Liv before she was diagnosed.

Liv said: “It was around January and February last year that I first noticed something wasn’t right.

“I started getting headaches every day. My mum and dad said maybe I wasn’t drinking enough and all that – as parents do.

“We had a telephone consultation with our family GP and they thought it might be to do with my teeth and so my mum took me to the dentist.

“He couldn’t find anything wrong, but thought it might be an infection in my glands, and prescribed antibiotics.

Liv in hospital.

“It wasn’t until I saw another doctor that she said something wasn’t right.”

After more consultations and hospital trips, Liv’s mum took her straight to A&E.

Liv added: “More days passed and eventually I was sent for a CT scan. That’s when they found a hole in my skull and everything changed.

“The doctors said the cells in my brain had turned ‘rogue’ and had started eating away at my skull.

“I had an operation and they took the cells out and put a metal plate over my skull. I had to have 60 stitches.”

Liv says she wasn’t ready to hear the word cancer.

“Because I wasn’t prepared for the news it was a shock,” she continued.

“I had to have chemotherapy and now I’ve started the maintenance phase and take tablets every night.

“My hair started to fall out. I am not going to go bald, but it bothers me and it’s horrible to watch it come out when I brush my hair.”

Liv said the worst part of treatment has been the steroids and the side effects.

“I’ve had a full body rash, steroid bloating and my tongue shakes. I couldn’t eat foods I would usually like” Liv said.

“My diagnosis affected my friendships and confidence. I used to go out with my mates every night, but because the steroids put weight on me, I don’t go out because I’ve lost confidence.

“Getting diagnosed and going through treatment was horrible. I really struggled.”

Liv and her family were supported by Young Lives vs Cancer, so now the teen wants to help raise awareness as part of the charity’s campaign whereby they hand over their social media channels to youngsters like Liv.

Liv said: “Peggy, my Young Lives vs Cancer social worker, would just sit and listen and she was my ‘someone’ who was there for me.

“As a friend. It was nice just feeling you had someone there and not in a horrible way but who wasn’t a parent.

“Going through what I’ve been through makes you realise what’s important in life. Because I can’t do stuff I used to do, it makes you realise how important it is.”

Liv and her mum Claire have been fundraising for Young Lives vs Cancer since receiving support from the charity.

Liv’s mum, Claire added: “It is every parent’s worst nightmare to hear that news about your child. You go into fight mode.

“You have to square your shoulders and think what have we got to do to get through this.

“We first met our Young Lives vs Cancer Social Worker Peggy maybe in June or July. I was looking for help for Liv because I was worried about Liv’s friendships. We applied for help with transport costs. Peggy got in touch, and she was somebody to talk to.”

This World Cancer Day, Young Lives vs Cancer aims to help young people with cancer like Liv, show how despite all of the challenges they have faced, they can - with a little help - thrive during and after treatment.