Kirkcaldy woman’s brave battle to beat cancer

Gemma with sister Stephanie''� Lesley Martin 2015
Gemma with sister Stephanie''� Lesley Martin 2015

A Kirkcaldy woman can at last share a Christmas hug with the sister who was there for her every step of the way through her cancer battle.

Gemma Cassells was forced to keep at least a metre away from her family and friends on Christmas Day last year after becoming radioactive due to treatment for thyroid cancer.

The medication Gemma (23), was given made her sweat and urine radioactive during what she describes as the loneliest Christmas ever.

Everything she touched was left so toxic it had to be thrown away and not even her big sister Stephanie was allowed close to comfort her.

But now 12 months on Gemma is clear of the disease and has been chosen to help launch Dryathlon across Scotland. She’s urging people to take a month long break from alcohol in January to help raise money for Cancer Research UK.

Gemma said: “Hopefully one day everyone who has had cancer will be able to say that they’re survivors.

“I got no kisses or cuddles from anyone last Christmas. It was really hard and I felt lonely. No one could even put an arm around me, give me a hug and say that everything was going to be okay. It was horrible.”

Gemma was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in August last year after she discovered a lump the size of a golf ball in her neck.

She continued: “As soon as the doctor said the word cancer my mind just went blank. I didn’t know what to say. The difficult part was leaving the hospital and texting my mum and sister to let them know I had cancer. That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

“My sister 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.”

In September 2014 Gemma had a second operation to remove the other half of her thyroid, before she was given radioactive iodine treatment in December.

She said: “The worst part was the first two weeks when I was in isolation in the house.

“I couldn’t touch anyone as they might have ended up radioactive.”

But it was worth it when in January this year a full body scan revealed the treatment had worked.

Both sisters know that this Christmas will be very different as Gemma can share all the celebrations she missed out in last year, and they’re both proud to back Dryathlon.