Monday 28 May 2018
I was given weeks to live, but then my cancer disappeared
After a terminal cancer diagnosis, Tiff had prepared to die. Aged 32, she had already planned her funeral. But a miracle happened.
Tiff Youngs said she wanted to see her daughter grow up.
Leicester Tigers captain and former England rugby player Tom Youngs’ wife Tiff was diagnosed with cancer, which she was told was terminal in 2013.
His brother, Leicester and England scrum-half Ben Youngs, pulled out of the British and Irish Lions squad following their family’s devastating news.
Here, Tiff shares her journey with Sky News:
I had just had my daughter Maisie in 2013 when I developed an awful cold and cough. It just wouldn’t shift so I went to the doctor and had a blood test which showed “something” in my bloods. I was sent for a chest x-ray that day and then my doctor called me a little while later to tell me he thought I had blood cancer. Tom was at the club training and I called his PA to try to get into contact with him.
I was in a state.
Tom rang me straight back and rushed home – which is pretty much unheard of during training. A biopsy confirmed I had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is a network of vessels and glands spread throughout your body. I was 28. You never think you’re going to get that news.
Tom collapsed to the floor with shock. We didn’t know what to do. But everyone was telling me that it’s treatable and lots of people were saying it’s the most curable one you can have. So I thought I’d have six months of treatment and that would be it.
I had a donor’s stem cell transplant, but I had to wait a while due to three or four donors failing, so I had to go onto another lot of treatment in Manchester.
I had four years of treatment in total.
I had my head shaved twice throughout treatment over the four years. I didn’t see my daughter at one point for four weeks while I was in hospital.
In 2017, they gave me four weeks to a year to live. I had to tell my daughter. Me, Tom and Maisie were sat on my bed, having a giggle and I just had to tell her. I said mummy has been very poorly, and that mummy would be going to heaven. She started crying. It’s the worst thing I have ever had to do and I don’t wish it on anyone. I then started getting my affairs in order.
I wrote down the cleaner’s number, the neighbour’s number, I gave people our house keys, I had guardians in place and I started looking for a full-time nanny to help Tom. I sold all my clothes, gave everything to charity shops, I had a massive clear out and threw lots of stuff away. I planned my funeral – I chose my picture, my music, told my family how I wanted to die. I felt guilty and a burden to everybody, I didn’t want anyone to have anything to do.
Tom is very close with his brother Ben, and Ben took the decision to miss the Lions tour when we found out I was terminal. I just felt awful, like I was jeopardising his career and like I was a burden on everybody. But of course nobody saw it that way, it was just me. Tom even banned me from using the word “burden”.
It probably took me about two and a half years after I was diagnosed to actually accept help from people. I did worry a lot about how my illness was affecting everybody else. But in July, I decided “I’m not going anywhere”. I decided that I hadn’t had a child for her to grow up without a mother.
I want to bring her up, so I decided to try an alternative treatment. I had nothing to lose – if it gave me an extra week with her it was worth it. So I went to London twice a week to see these two ladies recommended to me by someone. I told Tom we needed to be open-minded.
I went on a very, very strict diet plan of juices, no dairy, no red meat, no sugar, no tea or coffee – basically just fish and green juices. I was fasting from 7pm until noon the next day. I did that for three months and I felt amazing on it.
Then the other lady treated me with an ENS cosmodic machine treatment which basically tells your brain to tell your body to produce the cells it’s not producing. It’s like a rollerball deodorant and it has three metal prongs and you just go up and down your back. My dad bought me the same machine and I started to do it. I also started taking THC cannabis oil after reading so much about it in the news.
I just started to feel better and I even woke up on a few mornings feeling like “I don’t think I’ve got it anymore”. But obviously I was very cautious about thinking that way. In February this year, I came down with a cold and went into hospital because I didn’t feel well. I had a scan and the consultant came in and told me it was clear.
I was in remission.
I was on my own – my mum, Tom and my daughter had gone out to get some food – so I called Tom and I told him to put me on loudspeaker. I shouted: “It’s gone!”. I rang my dad, he was very emotional, he dropped the phone I think. I told my brother and sister. It was just unbelievable.
From being told you are going to die, to then finding out you’re not, it’s incredibly hard and it’s such an adjustment. I had told my parents and Tom where I wanted to be, where I wanted to end my life, I’d written my will. I’d given my godchildren money, one of my friends had a tattoo to remember me. I had prepared to die. But Maisie kept me going. I wanted to see her start school. I wanted to see her birthday. I would set goals and I would achieve them and that pushed me through. I have so many people to thank as well as my family. The rugby fans, everybody at every club have sent messages; coaches, players, and Leicester Tigers have been absolutely amazing.
I really can’t thank them enough.