A 21 year old from Salford being treated for a rare cancer is looking forward to a special family Christmas having finished her treatment just in time for festivities.
Leyla Soncul, aged 21, was diagnosed with a Ewing sarcoma in her pelvis, a rare type of cancer that affects bones or the tissue around bones.
Following her diagnosis in April, Leyla was immediately referred to The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, a specialist cancer hospital in Manchester, to begin months of treatment including both chemotherapy and proton beam therapy.
Leyla, who lives with her mum and dad, said: “I had a scan because I’d been in pain and they found a mass in my pelvis and then I received a phone call to tell me it was cancer. It was lockdown, so it was very strange to receive such life-changing news by telephone and my world felt like it had turned upside down.”
Leyla attended The Christie’s teenage and young adult unit the very next day, but due to the restrictions caused by COVID-19, she had to attend the appointment on her own. She said: “I was immediately reassured by the team at The Christie. I would have loved my parents to be there to support me, but that just wasn’t possible. The nurses and doctors were so caring and reassuring, I immediately felt better and I knew there was a plan to help me.”
Leyla started her treatment the following week, which included both chemotherapy and proton beam therapy. Proton beam therapy (PBT) is a specialist form of radiotherapy that targets certain cancers very precisely, reducing side-effects. It targets tumours with less damage to surrounding healthy tissue. The Christie is home to the first NHS high-energy PBT centre in the UK.
Since then, Leyla has been attending The Christie for her treatment on a regular basis and was delighted to attend her final appointment last week. She will now have a scan in January to confirm if her treatment has been successful, but in the meantime is looking forward to a family Christmas at home.
She said: “I’m hopeful it has gone well. I used to be reliant on a wheelchair, but now my pain has gone and I’m back to being mobile. I feel stronger and healthier than I have done in months. I’ve still got to be careful, especially with COVID-19 still around, but I’m really looking forward to a family Christmas with my parents and putting my treatment behind me.
Leyla hopes to be able to return to the University of Liverpool in January to continue her history studies.
She added: “2020 has certainly been a strange year for me and my family. Christmas will give me time to reflect, but most of all I’m looking forward to getting my life back on track and I couldn’t be more grateful to the team at The Christie for everything they have done for me.”
The teenage and young adult (TYA) service at The Christie is for 16 to 24 year olds who are diagnosed with cancer or leukaemia providing bespoke and age appropriate care for young people. Specialist staff including nurses, doctors and other health professionals provide cancer care specifically dedicated to the needs of young people from purpose-built facilities, funded by The Christie charity, which include everything from teen-friendly lounges, a gym, a music room and support services including body image support groups, and specially arranged social activities such as pizza nights and group outings.
The Christie NHS Foundation Trust was the first specialist trust to be rated as ‘Outstanding’ twice (in 2016 and 2018) by the health regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC). It referred to The Christie as ‘a leader in cancer care’ and ‘a pioneer in developing innovative solutions to cancer care.’ The CQC praised the Trust’s staff which it said ‘go the extra mile to meet the needs of patients and their families’ and that they were ‘exceptionally kind and caring.’ In 2017, the CQC rated The Christie as the best specialist trust in the country, and one of the top three trusts overall in England.