A YOUNG woman who noticed a pimple behind her ear was horrified to learn – just weeks before her 21st birthday – that the lump was a rare incurable cancerous tumour.
Emily Foreman first noticed the small lump behind her right ear early last year, and put it down to nothing more than a pimple.
But the 21-year-old early childhood teacher from Taranaki, New Zealand, has since learned the cancer had spread to surrounding lymph nodes and her lungs.
Writing over the Give A Little donation website, she said: “My journey began over a year ago, at the start of 2018. This was when I noticed a small lump behind my right ear.
“Initially, this did not worry me; it wasn’t until April last year, when the lump had doubled in size and my ear was beginning to go numb that I decided to go to my local GP.”
After multiple scans, biopsys, referrals, Emily underwent a major six-hour operation to remove the Large Cell Undifferentiated Carcinoma located in her main salivary parotid gland.
The procedure left her right side of her face paralysed.
She recounted: “Then it was over, things were finally able to go back to normal and I was able to start living my life again.
“I slowly returned to my job as an early childhood teacher and eventually was able to go back to my usual 40 hour week.
“I was even considering starting my Bachelor in Teaching (Early Childhood).
“Things were finally back to how they used to be and I was able to make some plans for my future and try and put this whole cancer thing behind me.”
But in February this year, a routine check up showed the cancer had spread, with multiple lesions across both of her lungs.
“There was always that chance of the cancer coming back, but never in a million years did I expect this, or for it to happen so soon,” Emily said.
The floor just dropped below us.”
Sarah Foreman, Emily’s mother
“This changed everything. Because the lesions were so small and spread across both my lungs surgery wasn’t an option, we were also unable to do radiation as this would damage my lungs too much.”
Her mother Sarah described hearing the news for the first time.
“The floor just dropped below us,” she told NZ publication stuff.co.nz.
Sarah recalled meeting an oncologist, recounting the experience: “He said ‘Emily, I don’t think I can cure you’.”
For Emily, surgery nor radiation are an option due to the nature and size of the cancer.
The best hope for keeping the cancer at bay is immunotherapy, at a cost of $60,000 for a 10-week treatment.
The treatment, which helps the immune system fight cancer on its own, will need to be funded by Emily and her family.
Mother Sarah said: “You do what you do; you’d sell your house and live in a tent if you had to.
“But we don’t know what the future holds for Em.”
Emily hopes to start treatment soon after recently discovering the lesions had changed and started to grow.
She posted to Facebook: “Because of this we are going to be needing to start immunotherapy sooner than we thought. We may be beginning this in the next 2-3 weeks or possibly sooner.
“If my body responds well to the immunotherapy then this is something that we can do indefinitely.
“This means we could be doing this for a long time; possibly even years.
“Now the immunotherapy is not a cure, and will not cure me; currently there is no cure. But it should be able to prevent the lesions from growing and keep them at bay for as long as possible.
“Medicine is changing all the time and I am hopeful that one day there will be a cure but currently this is my best chance at keeping the cancer at bay until that cure is found.”
The family has so far raised almost $25,000 in four weeks.
What is large cell (undifferentiated) carcinoma?
This type accounts for about 10 per cent to 15 per cent of lung cancers.
It can appear in any part of the lung, but often appear in the periphery of the lung as mass lesions.
It tends to grow and spread quickly, which can make it harder to treat.
A subtype of large cell carcinoma, known as large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma, is a fast-growing cancer that is very similar to small cell lung cancer.
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