A TEENAGER who had a cancerous tumour wrapped around her vocal cord and her mum have spoken out about their battle.
Shannon Hawthorn’s cancer was first diagnosed in March 2018.
The 17-year-old student, her mum and grandma were out shopping for a prom dress when they noticed a lump in Shannon’s neck.
Mother-of-three Nicola, of Nelson, said: “We were having a lovely day and we should have been picking out dresses for Shannon’s high school prom, when we suddenly noticed that her neck was swelling up like a balloon.
“I knew immediately that something wasn’t right, and took Shannon straight to A&E.”
Doctors at Burnley General Hospital sent Shannon for urgent tests which revealed cancerous lumps in her neck and thyroid.
Nicola, 39 – who works in a GP practice management team – said: “I could tell there was something wrong as soon as the doctors and nurses started fussing over the scans.
“But nothing can prepare you for the moment you’re told ‘it’s cancer’ and the whirlwind of emotions that follow. In an instant, our world changed.”
Shannon – who was then a Year 11 pupil at Fisher More RC High School in Colne – was referred for urgent surgery just two weeks later.
The six-hour operation at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital involved painstaking surgery to cut open her neck and remove the tumour, which had wrapped itself around her vocal nerves on the right side.
However the operation didn’t quite go to plan –the cancer was more advanced than doctors first thought and the right laryngeal nerve which helped Shannon speak had to be sacrificed during the surgery.
Shannon – who was just 15 at the time – awoke from the operation with her right vocal cord paralysed and left virtually unable to speak.
Amazingly, she decided to press ahead with her GCSE exams that summer, while recovering from the surgery and taking medication to boost her thyroid function. But there was more tough news on the horizon.
Nicola added: “A week after her exams finished, I had a phone call from the doctor to say there was still some disease in the left side of Shannon’s neck.”
Shannon underwent a radical neck dissection to remove the remaining cancer in August last year. A course of internal radiotherapy then followed, which involved four days in isolation at the Christie Hospital in Manchester.
Nicola – who is also mum to Nathan, 19, and Poppy, 3 – said: “Shannon’s positive attitude has just melted my heart. She is truly one in a million. Her last year of high school and the prom was replaced by surgery and discomfort, but she never let this stop her achieving her goal of starting college.
“She even describes her scar – which runs from ear to ear – as her ‘smile’. I have never known a braver person in my life. As soon as I heard about the Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People Star Awards I put Shannon forward. She has shown such courage since her cancer diagnosis and we are so proud of her.”
A year on and Shannon is now studying childcare at Nelson & Colne College and looking forward to the future.
She has been given a Cancer Research UK Young People Star Award after being nominated by her mum for the strength she showed.
Shannon said: “As a teenager, you don’t expect to be told you have cancer – it just isn’t part of the plan. Life hasn’t been easy over the past few years but with the support of family and friends, my future is now looking bright. It was such an amazing surprise to receive the Star Award and I encourage others to nominate their loved ones too.”
The Star Awards are open to all under-18s who have cancer or have been treated for the disease in the last five years. Visit cruk.org/childrenandyoungpeople