Caroline Cassidy, 22, had her life turned upside down after doctors discovered a rare spinal cord tumour in February 2016 following an emergency MRI
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A woman has been stuck living in her family’s sitting room for years after her devastating cancer left her locked in a wheelchair.
Caroline Cassidy, 22, had her life turned upside down after doctors discovered a rare spinal cord tumour in February 2016 following an emergency MRI.
The then 16-year-old had been suffering from back pain for a number of months when she was rushed for ten-hour surgery at the Edinburgh Sick Kids hospital, Daily Record reports.
Caroline’s mum, Elaine, said: “She had had back pain from the July before she was diagnosed and had been to the doctor a few times with bladder symptoms.
“They thought the back pain was just because she was tall and growing.
“She’d been for physiotherapy but they had said it needed further investigation and that’s when she referred and things just deteriorated.
“She had to go in for an emergency MRI and the next day she was sent went into for ten-hour surgery to try and de-bulk the tumours.”
Surgeons were unable to remove Caroline’s tumour completely because it’s within her spinal cord.
Caroline, from Dalkeith, in Midlothian, was left with a weakness in her left leg and was initially in a wheelchair before learning to walk again with crutches.
Elaine, 53, said: “Her life changed dramatically, she had been preparing to go abroad to India for the World Challenge in May to help build schools.
“The day she had the MRI she had been training, she was doing hikes and things like that, and by the next day she was bed-bound after surgery.
“She had to be turned every two hours and learn to walk again.”
Despite having to miss school while recovering from her op, brave Caroline got into Edinburgh University and began studying history in 2017.
But at age 18 the student began to develop pains again and doctors confirmed the tumours had once again grown up her spinal cord.
Caroline began rounds of gruelling chemotherapy to tackle the tumours and remains on steroids, which have weakened her bones.
When the bright youngster eventually became wheelchair-bound in 2019 she was suddenly forced to live – eating sleeping and studying – in her family’s living room.
Elaine, who balances being Caroline’s carer and working as a nurse for the NHS, said: “She tries to carry on as normal but can’t get upstairs to her own bedroom and has had to sleep the living room. We’re just a wee house, so life goes on and Caroline just has to fit around it.
“She’s tried to keep up with her studies but it’s very difficult when people are coming in and out.
“But she’s got nowhere to go. She has to do her studying in the living room whilst we’re all doing different things.”
Caroline – who also suffers from pockets of fluid, called syrinx, and had a pulmonary embolism in 2019 – still needs MRI scans every few months to monitor the growth of her tumours.
But doctors have told the family it’s unlikely the tumours will ever be fully removed, due to the position in her spine.
Her mobility will also never recover due to nerve damage.
Elaine said: “It’s just a case of monitoring the tumours and then it may be radiotherapy or revisit to see if she can proton therapy.
“We don’t think getting rid of the tumours will be a possibility because of the type of tumour it is and it’s tangled within the nerves.”
The mum-of-two explained that when the pandemic hit she had to turn away Caroline’s carers due to her daughter being immunocompromised.
Caroline was then forced to shield for over a year in her family’s living room.
Commending her daughter’s bravery, Elaine said: “She’s fought to walk again after her surgery and done everything in her means to get better.
“It’s been hard to see that she gets so far then has another knockback.
“But Caroline is very stoic and just gets her head down and get on with things. She does get anxious and have her moments but she’s just such a kind and caring person.”
A fundraiser has now been launched to get Caroline her own space after the family got planning permission to build an extension for her.
To visit the fundraiser click here.