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Cancer survivor keen on Christmas hugs after treatment meant relatives had to stay away last year

Published 17/12/2015

Thyroid cancer-killing tablets left Gemma Cassells radioactive
Thyroid cancer-killing tablets left Gemma Cassells radioactive

A cancer survivor is looking forward to hugs from her family this Christmas after her toxic treatment meant relatives had to stay away last year.

Gemma Cassells, from Kirkcaldy, Fife, was forced to keep relatives at least a metre from her after the thyroid cancer-killing tablets she took left her radioactive.

The 23-year-old said she had a difficult time without those closest to her able to comfort her.

In January, she will take part in Cancer Research UK's Dryathlon, giving up alcohol for a month to raise funds for the charity.

Ms Cassells said: "I got no kisses or cuddles from anyone last Christmas.

"No-one could even put an arm around me, give me a hug and say that everything was going to be okay.

"It can feel lonely having cancer anyway, so this just made it worse. I felt like the only person in the world going through it.

"My sister Stephanie and I have always been close, and she's been my rock through it all.

"She was there for me from day one, coming to all the hospital appointments and always being there when I needed her."

After discovering a lump in her neck in August last year, Ms Cassells went to the doctor and tests revealed a cancerous growth which had to be removed.

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The following month she had a second operation to remove the other half of her thyroid to help prevent the cancer from returning and then underwent radioactive iodine treatment.

Thyroid cancer cells pick up the iodine wherever they are in the body and the radiation in the iodine kills the cancer cells.

Ms Cassells said: "I had to swallow the tablet straight away and couldn't let it touch the sides of my mouth. No-one was allowed in to the room and I wasn't allowed out.

"Everything in the room including the toilet and even the TV remote control was covered in plastic, and I had to drink lots of water to flush the radioactivity out of my body. All of the clothes I was wearing had to be destroyed."

She was given strict instructions not to touch anyone and had to carry a medical certificate to show security guards in case she set off security alarms in stores.

Ms Cassells is helping launch the Dryathlon challenge, where participants get sponsored or give the money they would usually spend on drinks to help fight cancer.

To sign up visit www.dryathlon.org

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