A young woman who thought she had a shaving rash on her legs was devastated when she discovered it was a symptom of cancer.
Rhiannon Douglas, 21 from Cannock, Staffs, noticed the red rash on her legs but assumed it was from shaving. However, the rash quickly spread and after being rushed to A&E with back pains, tests revealed she had an 8.5cm mass growing in her chest.
Her worst fears were confirmed when she was diagnosed with nodular sclerosis lymphoma – a rare type of Hodgkin lymphoma that develops in the lymphatic system.
Doctors told Douglas that her rash was a rare symptom of her type of cancer - and if it had not come up, it is unlikely the cancer would have been diagnosed in time to be treated.
Since her diagnosis in November 2016, the tumour has begun to shrink and she now has regular scans once a month.
She is hoping to be in remission by summer and is sharing her story to raise awareness for the bizarre symptoms cancer can cause.
Douglas, a receptionist, said: “I couldn’t believe that the rash on my legs was a rare sign of cancer, I had never heard or seen of this before so I was completely shocked when I found out.
“At first I just thought the rash was caused by shaving, it made sense as it was my cousin’s wedding a few days before and because I was wearing a dress I had shaved my legs.
“But when it started to spread I panicked and thought it was meningitis and went straight to the doctor.
“My legs were constantly burning, I could only wear loose fitted clothes and I couldn’t wear shoes, I had to live in flip flops.
“I was misdiagnosed several times, and it took six months before I started to get pains in my joints and back I was sent to A&E and that’s where they found the mass on my chest.
“When I was told that I had cancer I felt numb and never thought I would hear those words at just 20 years old.
“But I was determined to fight it and there and then I decided to change my lifestyle around, I wanted to do everything I could to get better.
“I had a second scan a few days before my birthday in December which revealed the tumour had shrunk to 7.5cm, I couldn’t believe it, my next scan is on January 16 and I’m hoping for it to have shrunk even more by then.
“I now want to urge others to always get a second opinion, it’s really important to be aware of the rare signs of cancer, luckily mine was caught in time but unfortunately this may not be the case for everyone.”
Douglas first noticed the rash in May 2016, but it wasn’t until it started to spread that she saw a doctor who told her she had Henoch schonlein purpura (HSP) - a rare condition in which blood vessels become inflamed.
She was sent away and told to take ibuprofen but soon her symptoms started to worsen.
She added: “The rash on my legs was really painful at first but then after a while my legs also started to swell and I suffered bad pain in my joints.
“I was struggling to get up and down the stairs and I became breathless really easily.
“I was referred to a rheumatologist as my GP thought it was arthritis, steroids eased the swelling but I put on a lot of weight which was horrible.
“One day I got up for work and I had really bad back ache, I rang the doctors and explained my symptoms and I was later urged to go to hospital.
“It was there that I was given blood tests which revealed I didn’t have a blood clot as my doctor feared and was sent for numerous x-rays.
“A few days later the tests revealed I had a huge mass on my chest and I was sent for a biopsy to see whether it was lymphoma.
“On November 17 it was confirmed that I had cancer, it wasn’t until I woke up the next day that it sunk in but instead of getting upset I just wanted to get better.”
Despite the aggressive nature of Hodgkin lymphoma, it is one of the most easily treated types of cancer and, miraculously, Douglas’ tumour has shrunk to 7.5cm.
She said: “At the moment chemotherapy isn’t essential as the tumour is shrinking by itself.
“I have completely changed my life around, I have tried all sorts of natural treatments and remedies and I have become vegan which I think has helped a lot.
“After doing research online I found some articles that say a rash is a sign of cancer but it’s not a very common one, some people may not know what to look out for.
“I would urge anyone to get themselves checked out if they are unsure of anything as you just never know what it might be.
“But I also think it’s also really important not to put a death sentence on the word cancer, I have a really positive outlook and I’m hoping to be in remission by the summer.”