Winnie the Pooh means it's serious

21st October 2005 at 01:00
Five years ago, Nicole Dryburgh was diagnosed with cancer. She pulled through, only to suffer a brain haemorrhage that left her blind and with limited mobility. This is the second instalment of her remarkable account of her illness

April 2002 About 16 months after my radiotherapy, I started to get a throbbing aching pain at the base of my spine. I was given tablets for it but they didn't help and I went to King's College hospital in London to have an angiogram. I remember waking up and Mum being beside me. At one point a nurse came over and just whipped back the sheet to check the wound.

I was thinking, "Do you mind, you're flashing my bits there!"

On one of my routine scans they noticed a shadow further down my spine.

They decided to operate, but as I'd been told I had a rare type of cancer that was unlikely to reseed, I wasn't too worried. To see if it was a tumour, I went to the Royal Marsden in Surrey. Although the tests seemed fine, there was still a shadow on my spine, so I went to King's for another operation at the end of July. I was 13 so I understood things more and I also worried more. But I never felt scared. It was the end of Year 9, when all the fun stuff was going on. I had to miss all of that, which I was a bit upset about. My year group were going to a theme park in France.

December 14 2002 It was about 10.30pm and I had been to post the neighbours' Christmas cards. As I went to walk upstairs, I got a sharp pain in my head and that is all I remember until I woke up on the floor and my head was thumping. Molly (Nicole's dog) was beside me and I was stroking her. She was shaking.

I went to accident and emergency. It was Saturday night so it was full of drunks. I don't remember much of that night as I was unconscious for most of it. At first the doctors thought it was a teenage thing and that I'd forgotten to eat. Then they found out about my history with cancer.

I remember waking up in the children's ward and looking at the walls and smiling because I was in the room with Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore displayed on the walls. This is the room right next to the reception desk where the really ill children go. The other times that I had been in Kent and Canterbury hospital I hadn't been that ill, so I had been in the rooms with Postman Pat, Paddington Bear or with the mermaids on the wall. I had tests and scans, but I don't remember any of that, which is probably a good thing. The scan showed that I had a bleed on the brain, but no one knew quite how serious it was.

On the 15th I was sent back to King's. I can't remember a lot about the next few months. It upsets me a bit not remembering because I feel as though I have wasted those months. None of the doctors could work out what was wrong with me, although they were sure that it wasn't another tumour. I had a test to see if I was brain dead. They connected wires to my head with the other ends linked up to a machine and they did tests such as pinching me on both sides of my body to see if I would respond. I did.

Nicole Dryburgh, 16, attends St Nicholas' special school in Canterbury, Kent, part-time. She also receives some home tuition. Maria Corby's column returns in the new year

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