GRAPHIC: ‘My pimple almost killed me’
For years, Jorgia Robson has looked in the mirror and wished the tiny dots of acne on her cheeks would just go away.
But when the 20-year-old mum woke up one day and saw that a giant 'pimple' the size of a 50 cent coin had appeared on her forehead overnight, she instantly feared something more was going on - she just had no idea what it was.
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"It looked like a blind pimple but I knew straight away that it wasn't one," Jorgia told Kidspot.
SO MUCH PAIN
In the week that followed the busy mum - who juggles raising her two-year-old son, Hunter, as well as working and studying - suffered painful migraines around the clock.
"They wouldn't stop. I had trouble breathing and my chest and arms began hurting all of a sudden."
When the soreness of the bump became too much to bear, Jorgia went to her local GP clinic in her home town of Nepean, NSW, where two doctors examined her and diagnosed the enlarged lump as an infected 'blind pimple'.
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Jorgia was sent home with antibiotics and was given a second round of the medication when she returned two weeks later in even greater pain and with a lump that had morphed into a 'sausage' shape.
When that treatment failed, her doctor ordered an ultrasound, and that was when Jorgia's world came crashing down.
"I got the scan and they knew immediately that it was abnormal cells," Jorgia recalled.
THE ANSWER SHE FEARED
That same day, she was diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis (LCH), a rare cancer in adults where the immune system is so compromised that the skull bone is eaten away.
Doctors at Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital told Jorgia they had seen only one reported adult case before in New South Wales.
The condition is more common in young children.
The following days were a frightening blur of PET and CT scans and four bone biopsies which showed the disease had caused a three to four centimetre hole in her skull.
She has since endured a craniotomy and cranioplasty, where surgeons cut part of her skull and filled part of it back in with plaster.
Instead of the 'pimple' she had before, Jorgia now has a dent in her forehead where part of her skull used to be and a scar from 23 surgery staples.
Not only has the recovery from surgery been a physical strain, Jorgia feels even more helpless for not being able to work and care for little Hunter and has had to rely on the support of family, who recently set up a gofundme campaign on her behalf.
"It's been hard being a mum, I used to do everything for him now I can't."
THE LONG BATTLE AHEAD
While the lump on her skull only appeared a few months ago, doctors have told Jorgia that she has probably had the disease for several years.
"I had migraines on and off for a while, that could have been the link," she explained.
"They told me if it wasn't caught now, the hole in my skull would have penetrated to my brain."
Now, the brave mum is awaiting more scans to see if the cancer has spread to other parts of her body.
Even if she does miraculously get the 'all clear', the nature of the disease means that relief is likely temporary.
"I've been told it's bound to come back, so I'll need to get follow up scans every year," she said.
- Josephine Agostino is a journalist and freelancer who writes for Kidspot, Australia's leading parenting site
- This story originally appeared on kidspot.com.au and is reproduced here with permission