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Teenager Lana determined to 'kick ass' of aggressive form of cancer and get her life back on track

By Chris McCullough

Published 24/06/2016

Lana Douglas from Carrickfergus
Lana Douglas from Carrickfergus
Lana Douglas from Carrickfergus with her mum Colleen

A teenage girl from Co Antrim who has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer has told of her determination to beat the condition.

Lana Douglas is only 17 years old and is studying for her A-levels at Carrickfergus Grammar School.

Her world changed on June 1 this year when she was diagnosed with aggressive non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The disease can occur at any age, but the chance of developing the condition increases as people get older, with most cases diagnosed in people aged over 65.

But the brave Carrick teen is not taking the news lying down and is determined to fight the disease with everything she has got.

Lana has even started an online blog to record her journey fighting the disease in a bid to encourage others to be strong.

She said: "When I was first diagnosed my reaction surprised everyone, including my parents.

"I simply accepted that it is what it is, and how to move on from that point.

"I know it will be a battle to fight it but I am well prepared for that fight."

Before the diagnosis, Lana took what she thought was a really bad flu in April and developed an irritating cough that simply would not go away.

Her mum Colleen said: "We took Lana to the local doctor, who said it was a virus. But then she developed a swelling in the chest in the beginning of May.

"We called the doctor on call for her and Lana was given antibiotics to help the swelling.

"However, by the middle of May a small lump had developed on her collar bone and she had a rash as well.

"After more trips to the doctor Lana was eventually diagnosed with an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma on June 1."

On hearing the news Lana simply decided to deal with it and, according to her dad David, was very courageous.

"She was more worried about how the news was affecting us instead of herself," said David. "She is one brave girl and she has huge amounts of support from family and friends to get through this.

"Lana received her first chemotherapy session three weeks ago and had to have her hair cut after the treatment as she was starting to lose it.

"Her next chemo treatment is due this week and there will be six in total with three-week intervals in between each session," said David.

"Incidentally the lump the doctors found in her was 12cm in size."

Lana is in her first year of studying for A-levels and it's now exam time but these have been postponed for the time being.

She is very fond of languages and is studying French and Spanish at school as well as self-teaching herself Icelandic and Norwegian.

On top of this, she is very artistic and is keen on photography and drawing.

"My school has agreed to let me postpone the exams for the moment to allow for my treatments," said Lana.

"They have been very good about it and are very supportive to me and my family.

"My family and friends have also been very supportive and are my rock.

"Before I started losing my hair I decided to dye it pink and then blue, just because I could as I knew I was going to lose it anyhow.

"My blog has allowed me to express myself and is a huge release for me. I intend to write one every week to highlight my journey.

"I would encourage anyone in the same situation as me to be brave and to take one day at a time.

"Things will really get better and make sure to use the support from family and friends.

"Being able to talk about it is a big step forward and never close yourself up.

"I have a great fascination with Iceland and visited it last year with my family. I am learning to speak the language and we had plans to go back there this year, but we have had to put that vacation on hold.

"I was also due to go on an exchange programme to Spain with my school in September but I don't think I can go now as my chemotherapy will last into October.

"I have to say the nurses and staff in Antrim Area Hospital have been really good and supportive of me.

"And, of course, there is my cat, Atla, who I also rely on."

Lana's mum Colleen has taken a career break to help look after her daughter.

The treatment Lana is receiving means she cannot mix with groups of people due to the risks of getting an infection.

She has actually just got home following a few days in hospital after picking up an infection which was thankfully sorted out by antibiotics.

"Staying at home means I have time to write my blog which gives me courage and support," said Lana.

And the teenager added: "I am really determined to kick this cancer's ass and get things back to normal."

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