Skegness PCSO speaks of her remission after cancer diagnosis
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A Skegness community support officer who is in remission from Lymphoma cancer says she has received so much support from the local community and fellow colleagues since her return.
PCSO Michelle Collins was diagnosed with Lymphoma non-Hodgkinson high grade cancer in October 2021.
Several months prior to her diagnosis, PCSO Collins had been having issues in her lower back, and began noticing that she was unable to do as much as she once did.
She said: “I found myself getting tired and my weight increased. I then started getting pins and needles down both legs into my feet. This got worse with them going numb and the loss of feeling and it progressed into my hands and fingers.
“I just put it down to having Covid and not being as active as I once had. A friend and colleague had also noticed I had a cough that hadn’t gone away so I decided to pay another visit to the doctors.
“This was the first time I saw a medical professional. Due to the length of time, I had the cough some six to eight weeks. I was then sent for an X-ray but didn’t think it would come back with anything. I thought the constant wearing of masks was a possible reason for the cough.
“I was 44 at the time of diagnosis, never smoked, didn’t drink, and I was as active as any person could be, what with gym, volunteering for the RNLI, daily walks on the beat as one of the Skegness PCSO duties. But then I found myself with a 9.6cm mass on my chest pushing onto my lungs and aortic knuckle meaning breathing had become somewhat of a difficulty.”
PCSO Collins said her health began to deteriorate quickly after her diagnosis. She struggled to breathe which meant no talking, and Michelle is a natural talker which made it difficult.
She added: “I could barely walk, managing a few steps before collapsing out of breath.
My face, neck and chest swelled up to the size of various-sized balls such as tennis and cricket. I looked like a puffer fish. This was the cancer targeting my lymph nodes.”
Following her diagnosis, PCSO Collins had six sessions of chemotherapy on the Bostonian ward, Pilgrim Hospital. These involved a five day stay, sometimes longer on the ward, day one would be bloods and getting plugged onto two bags of chemo. PCSO Collins was given more chemo every 24 hours or so.
These would often be overrun, so the 96 hours would easily turn into 100 hours plus. But it didn’t stop there as the PSCO would then have a two-week recovery period at home before the process began again.
The chemo was a massive success and after only three sessions, on 13 December 2021, PCSO Collins said she was told the mass had gone from 9.6cm to zero, which was the best Christmas present she and her family could have ever asked for.
PCSO Collins added: “The subsequent sessions were like the old Pacman game where it goes round eating the little ghosts. For me Pacman was the chemo and the ghosts the cancer cells. It was going around eating all the cancer and making sure that on the 4 February 2022, I got to ring the bell signalling the end of the treatment.”
PCSO Collins came back to work on light duties in September 2022 but is not on patrol as she is not able to wear her stab vest or boots at present.
She said: “My head is still trying to catch up and if I am honest don’t remember everything. I don’t feel I have quite come to terms with the fact that I’ve had cancer and don’t know if I ever will. I think this is probably down to the fact of how quickly everything happened and the intensity of the treatment.
"Recovery is a whole new journey, which started on 28 March 2022. However, I am one of the lucky ones who gets to experience it. Recovery takes time - the only guidance I have is for every cycle of chemo it takes the body about two months to recover. The hardest part is allowing my body the time to recover and admitting to myself I can't do everything I used to, yet. The outside heals faster than the inside and looking at me now, you wouldn't know the journey I have been on, but as they say not all illnesses are visible.”
PCSO Collins said she still has her good and bad days and still battles with fatigue.
But despite her battle, PCSO Collins made a promise to the Bostonian Ward and the nurses who work on it I would help to make the ward a better place for their patients.
She described the staff as superheroes and said: “They never give up and don't ask anything in return for what they do. The only thing they want is the ward to be a better place for their patients.
"We take a TV for granted until we are suddenly without one, and the ward is one of those places where TVs were not present. There was no distraction from pain or treatment. The only thing in the rooms was a clock positioned at the end of the bed, counting down the time and reminding you what day it is.
"So, from the very beginning of my treatment, I made them the promise that somehow, I would change that and on 8 June we did exactly that. We dropped 18 TVs off, along with some aerials and snacks for the Snack Train. I couldn't have ever done that without Jack from the Phoenix gym and Andy from the Gaff they literally donned on boxing gloves to raise the money.
"They were not the only ones who were there for me, I haven't been able to say thank you to everyone who sent me wishes, said they were thinking of me and not to give up the fight.
"But I want to do that now. So, thank you to every one of you. Those messages gave me strength when mine was failing and told me never to give up."