Two 21-year-old neighbours have become best friends after discovering they are both suffering from the same rare cancer – and are fighting it together.
Catherine Boughton was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma the day before her 21st and thought nobody would ever understand what she was going through.
But that was before she met Samantha Tozer, 21, who was also suffering from the rare cancer, which only 300 young people are diagnosed with each year.
Amazingly, the women found they were living just 15 MILES apart – and have now become best friends.
They speak everyday and have helped one another through everything from the devastating diagnosis to losing their hair.
And last week they cried and celebrated together when Catherine, known as Cat, was told that the agonising treatment had worked and she was finally in remission.
Cat said: “I don’t think we would have ever met if this hadn’t happened but I don’t know what we would have done without each other.
“Having cancer can be a very lonely experience, particularly at our age. But we have been able to share everything and can really relate to each other.
“Our family, friends and boyfriends have all been really supportive, but unless you have been through it you can’t really know how it feels.”
Cat, a TSB worker from Coopers Hill, Glos., went to her GP when she found a lump near her collar bone and a biopsy confirmed cancer in October 29 last year – the day before her 21st birthday.
The following morning, she turned to the internet to find out everything she could about the battle she was about to face and write a blog about her experiences.
“When sharing my story through social media I have learnt how unaware we all are about the truth behind cancer,” she said.
“It doesn’t have to be all about hospital appointments and being ill. You can still enjoy your life while having cancer, I made sure that I did and I’d hope to show people how.”
But she still felt alone – until dental nurse Sam got in touch after a friend of a friend told her that they were going through exactly the same thing.
Since then then, the two women have supported each other every step of the way and shared tears of sadness and joy.
“It has really helped loads,” said Cat. “When you don’t know anybody who has ever had cancer it can be a lonely place,
“Sam and I were both so lucky to find somebody else the same age going through the same process and living so close.”
Cat had already started treatment when they met and gave Sam practical advice like shaving all her hair off in advance rather than getting upset every day as it fell out gradually.
When told she was in remission, Cat immediately phoned Sam, who recently finished her chemotherapy treatment, and they celebrated together.
Sam, from Stonehouse, Glos., said: “When I was diagnosed I felt very anxious and scared so it was really good to have somebody who knew exactly how I felt to talk to.
“Because she is so confident, Cat has been a real help.
“She was able to offer me reassurance when I needed it and she really helpful when I lost all my hair and thought everybody was looking at me.
“We had a good cry when we found her latest test results and now I can look at her and think that could be me next month when I have my scan.”
The friendship has also been useful for family and their boyfriends Steve Nobes and Liam Littleton.
“When we go out for meals they talk about things like how we cannot sleep at night,” said Cat.
“After being what we have been through together, I’m sure we will all be friends for life.”
Jonathan Pearce, chief executive of the Lymphoma Association, said having somebody who understands exactly what you are going through can make all the difference.
“As a specialist charity for people with and affected by lymphoma, the Lymphoma Association really understands the importance of helping and supporting people with the fifth most common cancer in the UK,” he said.
“That includes the invaluable mutual support and understanding provided among people sharing the same form of cancer and the issues it brings.
“While generally lymphoma is more prevalent in older people, it also happens to be the most common cancer among teenagers and young adults, although the overall numbers are thankfully quite small.
“About 290 15-24-year-olds are diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in the UK each year, so the chances of Cat and Sam meeting up and helping each other must be really small – but thank goodness that they did.
“The Lymphoma Association works hard to ensure that no-one has to face their cancer diagnosis and treatment alone – and we’re incredibly grateful to Cat and Sam for supporting each other and for supporting us in our vital work.”
When Sam was given some good news about her tests going well Cat said on social media: “I’m so happy I actually cried. All that suffering and pain was worth it.
“It seems like just yesterday we met and here we are 6 months down the line, both on the up and ready for remission!”
“So grateful to have met you and shared this suffering together.”
The women have now joined forces to arranged a black tie charity ball for the Lymphoma Association at Hatherley Manor, Gloucester, on August 22.