A COURAGEOUS schoolgirl has spoken about her battle with cancer in the hope of inspiring other young people.
Less than a month since she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, Lora Doyle (14), from Arklow, Co Wicklow, has won admiration with her positive outlook on life.
While many in her position would be forgiven for thinking 'why me?', Lora has adopted a different attitude.
"It's really shocking and generally hard because you don't know what could happen," said the third-year student at St Mary's School in Arklow.
"But I want to make something positive out of it – there's no point crying at home."
In a letter to the Irish Independent she told how she had ignored the lump growing on her neck for the past six months. It was not until Christmas Day that she told an aunt, who is a doctor, about the lump and she was immediately advised to have it checked out.
"There could be other kids having these symptoms and not doing anything. I ignored my lump," said Lora.
She first noticed the lump on her neck near her collar bone last June. It started out the size of a pea but grew progressively bigger over the following months. At the same time, Lora began to suffer from extreme fatigue and lost her appetite.
"I noticed since going back to school in September, she was coming in the evening dropping her schoolbag and going straight to bed," said Lora's mother, Fran.
"I'd call her for dinner at six o'clock and it was a struggle to get her down. I never dreamed it could be this serious."
Lora, who has a 17-year-old brother, Cian, went to see her GP, who immediately referred her to Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin. After waiting eight hours in accident and emergency – Lora's father Morgan flatly told doctors they would not go home without getting some answers – she was seen by a surgeon who ordered a biopsy.
"We were sitting in a room in Crumlin, my parents and my brother, and the doctor said 'it's looking like Hodgkin's'. It really was shocking, I didn't know how to react.
"I left the room because I didn't want to cry in front of my parents, I didn't want to make it worse for them," said Lora.
She has now begun a two-month course of chemotherapy and her doctors are "very positive" about her outcome, said Fran. "I now know what it is like to be faced with such tragic news. But I feel this was meant to happen," said Lora.
"I believe every negative has a positive. My family are now much closer and stronger.
"I want my story to show young people my age, that although life may get hard, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. I want people to know that cancer can happen to anyone," she added.
"I would like to thank my GP, Dr Robert Foster, and my oncologist, Dr Michael Capra, for all they have done for me and for all the support they have given me and my family."