‘They said if they didn’t do the operation, I would die’ - Norwich teenager tells of her education success despite cancer battle
15:22 17 September 2012
A teenager once told she faced death as she fought cancer is planning to spend her career caring for others.
Emma-Louise Pottle, of Beecheno Road, Norwich, underwent three operations in 11 weeks as doctors diagnosed her with throat cancer before discovering a blockage on the brain, which put her life at risk.
But despite her health worries, the 19-year-old continued her studies at City College Norwich and achieved her health and social care certificate, plus qualifications in maths and first aid.
Emma-Louise’s determination and achievements were described by her tutor, Amanda Sheehy, as “remarkable” and an “inspiration”, as she received the college’s Governors’ Award for Outstanding Student Achievement.
But the teenager has also paid tribute to her classmates for keeping her going through a difficult time in her life.
She said: “I was really grateful to the other students on my course. When I was upset they talked to me to calm me down, stop me from crying and we had a laugh and I completely forgot about the cancer.
“They all took part in the Race for Life and they raised between £400 and £500.”
The first sign of a health problem for Emma-Louise emerged in July 2011 when a lump was found on her right thyroid gland.
Doctors carried out several tests although they had little success in finding out what was wrong.
An operation followed to find out more last January and two weeks later it was confirmed she had thyroid cancer.
On February 14, Valentine’s Day, another operation was required to examine her left thyroid gland, which was clear.
But in March a third operation was needed – with a warning she could die without it. Emma-Louise said: “I had a fit and my calcium levels dropped very low and they then discovered a blockage in the tube that runs through the head. They said that was putting pressure on the brain and if they didn’t do the operation, I would die.
“I was worried as I didn’t know if there was going to be anything wrong. But I just thought I needed to carry on with my college work until I actually found out.”
She said she has to remain watchful, despite the initial all-clear.
She said: “They said if I get any headaches or blurred vision to contact my doctor straight away and I would have to have a bigger operation on my head.”
The college last week recognised 89 students for their achievements in further education during the last academic year, with Emma-Louise admitting she was “quite shocked” when she received her prize.
And her plans after college now include trying to find a job in health and social care, similar to her experience of providing activities in Norwich’s Vauxhall Centre.
Miss Pottle said: “I want to work with elderly people or people who have disabilities and difficulties.”
Do you have a health story? Call reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772426 or email firstname.lastname@example.org