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Share a cancer survival story to inspire and give hope to others
We help hundreds of people sell their stories to the media each week. Meet a recent client; a cancer sufferer who piled on the pounds thanks to treatment. She has now lost five stone – and beaten the disease.
Gemma Hakner, 25, gained six stone during and after her battle with Hodgkin lymphoma – mostly due to steroids she took to fight the disease.
She used to be nine stone and a size 8, but at her heaviest she tipped the scales at 15st 6lbs and struggled to squeeze into a size 18.
She decided to get back in shape using a calorie tracker on her phone, and she has dropped five stone, weighs 10st 7lb and is back to a size 8.
The recruitment consultant for carers from Norwich, Norfolk, is also in remission and feels better than ever. She said: “While I was battling cancer my weight wasn’t my priority, getting better was.
“But the treatment really made my weight rocket and by the time I was in remission I didn’t recognise myself any more. I was determined to lose weight and get fit and healthy after I was given the all-clear. Now I’m in the best shape of my life.”
Gemma was first diagnosed Hodgkin lymphoma – a cancer that affects the immune system – in 2011, after experiencing weight loss, tiredness and lack of appetite.
Gemma said: “I’d always been a size 8 and around 9st. But when I was 16 or 17, I kept going to the doctors with different things wrong with me.
“I’d experienced weight loss, I wasn’t eating, I was coming from college and going straight to sleep because I was so exhausted.
“I’d gone back about five or six times and after looking up my symptoms I was pretty sure I had lymphoma. But I kept getting turned away and told I had different things – like a UTI or glandular fever.”
She was referred her to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, for tests and biopsies and was diagnosed with stage two Hogkin lymphoma. She had six months of chemotherapy and lots of steroids, which made her balloon from 9st to 12st.
I was partying constantly and drinking lots
“Weirdly the weight went all to my arms,” she said. “After I finished my treatment in December 2012, I got a job working as a holiday rep in Italy for TUI. I moved there and then to Austria and then France – and travelled around for a year and a half.
“In that time I piled weight on due to my lifestyle – I was partying constantly and drinking lots. As a rep, I used to get free drinks in most of the bars and I made the most of it.
“Food tended to be half price too so I’d eat out all of the time. Even when I came home, I carried on pigging out on junk food and I was barely doing any exercise,” she said.
There’s a knee somewhere under all this fat
“I was in a bad relationship and put on even more weight.
“My ex would tell me to lose weight and talk about how bad I looked. He would grab bits of my body like my thigh and say: ‘There’s a knee somewhere under all this fat’. Or ‘if you lost this chin you’d stop snoring’.
“He also said I was a ‘catfish’ and that I’d made myself look thinner on my online dating profile – as that’s how we met. After five months, I broke it off with him.”
Diagnosed with cancer again
Gemma was then diagnosed with cancer again in July 2015, a few months after she noticed her neck was swollen.
She had to endure six months of treatment. During that time she had two types of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant in 2016.
Gemma said: “That time I didn’t put on any additional weight, but I was already pretty heavy due to my lifestyle.”
She was told she in remission and was well enough to return to work as a carer in April 2016.
Gemma lost some weight through healthy eating and exercise. However, when she went to work as a ski instructor in France, a diet of cheese, bread and wine saw her weight shoot back up.
She returned to the UK in April 2017 and was more determined than ever to beat the bulge.
My Fitness Pal
She used the app My Fitness Pal to record what she was eating, and lost five stone and is now 10st 5lbs.
She still has a stone to lose before she reaches her target weight.
She’s now in a relationship with boyfriend Edwin, 23, a recruitment consultant for a health care agency. She’s happier than ever.
“There’s a chance the cancer could come back. I’ve been told to take care of myself and live as healthily as possible – which is what I’m doing,” she said
Would you like to share a cancer survival story?
If you would like to share a cancer survival story, simply fill out the story valuation form on this page. Sell an inspirational story, or any other story for that matter. See what your story is worth.
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