A young Horsham woman who has battled cancer since she was a 15-year-old schoolgirl underwent the ‘ultimate backstage experience’ at the Royal Albert Hall this week.
Lauren Widgery, 22, took part in a creative music workshop - and met drum and bass band Rudimental - at a Teenage Cancer Trust gig.
She later described it as “a unique experience. I’d had some drum lessons back at school, so I played those with four other people. Rudimental came in to watch us perform which was really good.”
The highlight came after years of harrowing cancer treatment for Lauren who was first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia when she was 15.
She has since undergone six years of treatment at the Teenage Cancer Unit at the Royal Marsden Hospital.
And this week she recalled how her illness was first discovered. “One day I was having a laugh with my mum when she realised that the right side of my mouth wasn’t moving as much.
“We didn’t think too much of it and I went to bed and got up for school as usual. Throughout the day the right-hand side of my face dropped more, and it looked like I had had a stroke.”
A string of tests followed and Lauren found herself unable to eat much and feeling very poorly. When cancer was finally diagnosed “I was glad to finally know what was wrong with me.”
But years of gruelling treatment followed, not only for the cancer itself but also for the treatment side effects she had to endure.
In 2014 she celebrated the end of her treatment - only to be hit with a new blow when the cancer returned nine months later. “It was horrible to know I would have to go through it all again.”
But brave Lauren battled on. She had a bone marrow transplant but even then found that the donor’s cells were battling her own.
“In 2017, I lost the ability to walk very suddenly,” she said. She ended up having to have both her hips replaced because steroid treatment caused her bones to ‘die and break.
Now, six years on from her first diagnosis, Lauren still attends the Royal Marsden for check-ups.
But she is thankful for the opportunity to take part in the Teenage Cancer Trust gig with Rudimental. “It was a really fun event, and everyone was up for a laugh. We had a party in the evening,”