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Newport teenager celebrates NHS support a year on from cancer diagnosis

Isabel smiles as she

7 February 2024

Isabel Dockings, 17 from Newport, was diagnosed at The Grange University Hospital with Metastatic Ewing Sarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer that had spread at the top of her thigh. She now marks a year since her diagnosis on 6 February 2023 and three months cancer free.

Isabel said: “I thought I had pulled a muscle. No 16 year old is ever going to think they have cancer.” She was going through her GCSEs, preparing for exams, spending time with friends and family. However, she found herself enduring a pain over several months that wouldn’t go away.

The pain would often keep her up at night and it wasn’t until she identified a solid lump on her thigh that she realised it was time to tell her mum, Danielle Dockings. Isabel was taken to her local GP surgery which prescribed painkillers and started the process for getting a further scan. Sadly though, Isabel’s pain rapidly increased and the family used the GP out of hours service at the Royal Gwent Hospital.

After an initial assessment and being sent home, Dr Jackie Abbey, an Out of Hours GP looked further into her symptoms and referred Isabel to The Grange University Hospital. Here, after observations, an X-ray and an MRI scan in the Children’s Emergency Assessment Unit, Isabel was diagnosed with cancer.

Isabel smiles as she lays in bed during a stay in hospital.

Following further scans and being referred to Oncology at Velindre Cancer Centre, Isabel received further treatment at Velindre Cancer Centre and Cardiff and Vale University Health Board’s University Hospital of Wales, where she underwent 14 cycles of Chemotherapy and six weeks of daily radiotherapy.

Isabel’s mum, Danielle Dockings, said:

“Isabel's diagnosis came as a complete shock, no parent expects to hear that their child has cancer. Initially we were scared because we didn't know if her cancer had spread and whether it would respond to treatment.

“We felt better after we met with Isabel's oncologist to discuss her treatment plan. Within two to three cycles of chemo, Isabel's pain drastically reduced and she gradually regained her ability to walk, so we knew the treatment was working.”

When Isabel was first diagnosed, her mobility was significantly affected. She relied on crutches for short distances and had to use a wheelchair for longer distances. During treatment she often felt too ill or tired to go on dog walks, spend time with friends or attend school.

Isabel remained highly positive throughout her journey with cancer though and attributed much of her strength in recovery in thanks to her support network of friends, family and new friends from the Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT) and NHS professionals which she would see daily. Her friends often visited, brought banana bread and one friend managed to raise £3,000 towards the TCT in thanks for supporting Isabel in her treatment.

In November 2023, Isabel rang the bell and was able to say she was all clear of cancer and in remission. Three months on, she is back to school, back to concerts and with a new outlook on life.

Isabel said:

"I wasn’t dreading going into hospital. They’ve all been amazing. There’s no way I could ever thank them enough. They literally saved my life. They treated me like a normal person. They didn’t let cancer identify me. They saw me for me.

“I got the all clear and I felt like I had a part of my life back. My life will never go back to normal again but I definitely appreciate life a lot more.”

Isabel and her family walk their dog in the woods.

Isabel’s mum, Danielle Dockings said:

“Words cannot begin to describe our relief, elation, and sense of gratitude! We're grateful to the doctor at the Royal Gwent who saw Isabel and took the initiative to get Isabel seen by an orthopaedic doctor. We're grateful to the doctors, nurses and OTs at The Grange who were brilliantly kind, supportive, and reassuring which helped us get through the first week after Isabel's diagnosis.

“We're grateful to the wonderful doctors, nurses, and therapeutic radiographers at Velindre and for the exceptional care Isabel and our family received at the Cardiff Teenage Cancer Trust Unit. We're grateful for all the support we've received from family, friends, and colleagues. And most of all, we're grateful that Isabel's treatment was successful! I'm grateful the NHS exists.”

Velindre University NHS Trust, Unit 2,Charnwood Court, Parc Nantgarw, Nantgarw, Cardiff, CF15 7QZ
Tel: 029 2019 6161