A woman who blamed her headaches for a hangover has been diagnosed with throat cancer.
Hope Stringer, 24, from Billericay, Essex, had been on a night out with friends when she began suffering with chronic pain in her left temple.
But when the hangover symptoms continued for longer than a week the healthy brunette began to put the tiredness and blurred vision down to long days at the office.
When Hope finally visited her GP she was told that she was suffering from common migraines and was prescribed pain killers on more than three occasions.
It wasn’t until she demanded an MRI scan that doctors discovered a cancerous tumour in the base of her skull – soft tissue sarcoma.
Hope said: “After a night out with friends I woke up with a really bad headache.
“I was tired for days after but thought it was just a hangover, the older I’m getting the worse they seem.
“But as the days and weeks continued I realised that the headache hadn’t gone and it was in my left temple every single day.
“After a few months the symptoms got worse, I started being sick and began suffering from dizziness and blurred vision too so I decided to visit my GP.
“I was told it was just a migraine and was prescribed pain killers which didn’t seem unusual as I’d been working long hours at my job where I’m constantly on the phone and on the computer.
“But after the pain continued I went back to the doctors but wad told the same.
“Luckily I have private health care at work so I demanded an MRI scan as I know my own body and I knew something wasn’t right.
“I was so shocked though when I was diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma, I just couldn’t understand I was only 23 and I’d been diagnosed with cancer.
“I’d been completely healthy up until that point and couldn’t believe that what I originally thought was a hangover could be something so serious.”
After being referred to a specialist for the MRI scan a tumour was found in Hope’s neck but as it was too deep it had to be removed before a biopsy could be done.
After confirming she had soft tissue sarcoma, Hope had to take nine months off work so she could undergo six intense rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Sadly another scan then revealed a second tumour had grown and this time surgeons had to remove a nerve that affects Hope’s left vocal cord in a bid to completely eliminate the entire tumour.
Hope said: “I’m a workaholic so it was horrible being off work for such a long time.
“I think I dealt with the news that I had cancer extremely well, I told my family the rules, there was to be no sadness or tears, I just wanted to remain positive and focus on getting better.
“I didn’t think the hair loss would affect me as I had a wig prepared and the day it started to fall out we had a little celebration and I shaved it all off.
“But I did find it difficult when my hair started to grow back as I couldn’t wear a wig anymore so my confidence hit an all-time low.
“Amazingly I found someone though who could attach extensions to short hair and as soon as I had them I felt like a completely different person, I was so happy I finally felt like me again.
“When doctors told me they’d have to remove a vocal cord nerve as well which would affect my speech I didn’t care at that stage, I just wanted the cancer gone.
“My voice sounds permanently strained now but over time with some vocal coaching it should return back to normal, I even had an implant inserted to help too.”
Recent scans have now shown that there is no evidence of the disease.
Hope said: “I am very positive about the future now and can’t wait to start living my life again.
“The experience has definitely changed me as a person, and for the better, I now genuinely grateful for every day.
“I want other people to be aware of the signs and symptoms and take action as soon as possible.
“If I hadn’t kept going back to the doctors the outcome may be very different today.”
Hope’s sister, Nancy, 27, ran the London Marathon 2016 for Sarcoma UK earlier this year and now the duo are trying to raise as much awareness as possible.
Lindsey Bennister, Chief Executive of Sarcoma UK said: “We are encouraging everybody to get behind the week, sarcoma is one of the cancers least understood by the general public and GPs.
“Sarcoma is a cancer that affects the bone and soft tissue, a key symptom is a lump that is increasing in size, often at a fast pace.
“Ten new cases of sarcoma are diagnosed every day in the UK, and people with Sarcoma tend to be younger than most people with cancer.
“Regularly at the stage of diagnosis the lump is the size of a baked bean tin with research showing survival rates would drastically increase by as much as 20% if it was detected at a size smaller than a golf ball.
“Sarcoma patients visit their GP more times than those with any other form of cancer before being diagnosed.”
For more information please visit www.sarcoma.org.uk.