A STOCKTON teenager, who diagnosed herself with cancer in an ambulance on the way to hospital, is backing TK Maxx’s Give Up Clothes for Good campaign this September- Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Amelia Johnson, 15, completed treatment for Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) in June and is now urging people to clear out their wardrobes to help save more lives like hers in support of Cancer Research UK for Children and Young People.

In January Amelia, then just 14-years-old, was diagnosed with the blood cancer after her parents took her to the GP concerned about bruising on her skin.

Amelia’s mam, Kelly Johnson, age 41, said: “Amelia kept getting bruises on her arms and legs, which we initially put down to dance injuries as she is a really keen dancer who trained four times a week. But then the bruising came up on the backs of her hands. We took her to the GP who thought it was likely to be an iron deficiency and took some blood tests. What followed was completely life changing.”

After the appointment the family went home and carried on their day as normal only to be woken at 1am by an ambulance instructed to take Amelia straight to hospital.

Amelia’s Dad, Mike Johnson, 47, said: “We couldn’t believe what was happening. We were all fast asleep and woke up to an ambulance at our door. The ambulance staff weren’t able to tell us why Amelia had to go in which was terrifying, but on the way there Amelia Googled her symptoms and said to my wife Kelly ‘I think I’ve got cancer’.

“And sure enough we got to North Tees Hospital and were told the blood tests showed Amelia had leukaemia and that she needed to start treatment immediately. By 9am we had been transferred to the Newcastle RVI and she began chemotherapy, she was in hospital for the next 10 days.”

Amelia, a pupil at Ian Ramsey Church of England Academy, began her treatment which would last for six months and require substantial stays in hospital every time she had a round of chemotherapy.

Kelly said: “The side effects of her treatment have been really difficult for her. Not only did she lose her hair, which was incredibly tough for a beautiful young girl to go through, but she suffered excruciating pain and infections. There were a couple of times we thought we were going to lose her. To see your daughter going through that and not being able to do anything other than to cuddle and support her was terrible.”

Despite Covid-19 Amelia continued her treatment and was in and out of hospital during each chemotherapy cycle, but it meant she could no longer leave her room on the ward.

Kelly said: “Before the Covid pandemic time in hospital could be broken up with a film in the TV room, a piano lesson or playing board games, which they kindly arranged on the ward for her. But as soon as lockdown happened it was like she became a prisoner in her room, not allowed to leave or have anyone visit. It was so difficult, and the time really dragged during those weeks.

“Life as you know it just stops, so we’ve been so fortunate to have great support from family, friends and people at mine and Mike’s work, which has made a massive difference and meant we didn’t have to worry about anything else."

Speaking about her diagnosis Amelia, who logged her experience using a photo diary, said: “I always considered myself as a very fit and healthy person since I used to dance most days of the week at Janet Dickinson’s School of dance and also looked after my body by only eating healthy food. So being told that I had cancer was a complete shock, but I always knew deep down I would get through it and be dancing again soon.

“My first and biggest fear was losing my hair, so when I was told by my consultant that hair loss will happen I was very upset and cried a lot, the day the remainder of my hair was shaved off I was relieved as it was a mess. I have learnt to live without hair now and don’t get upset as much as I used to. I have many wigs that are very convincing and my hair is now growing back slowly.

“My 10-year-old sister Isabella was a great support for me, she would always send me text messages whilst I was in hospital and would always make me handmade gifts and cards as a surprise, when I was at home in between treatment Isabella would always help with the looking after me.

“My boyfriend used to visit me in hospital, but when Covid struck I didn’t see him for four months as it meant no one could visit anymore except my mam and dad and only one of them could be with me at a time.”

After six months of chemotherapy Amelia has now completed her treatment.

Amelia has been given the all clear, but will continue to have monthly blood tests and is waiting surgery to remove her Hickman line, which was used to administer treatment.

Amelia and her family are encouraging the public to help more children and young people survive cancer by donating any pre-loved quality clothing, accessories and homeware they no longer need to their nearest TK Maxx store.

When sold in Cancer Research UK shops, each bag of items donated could raise up to £25 to help fund research into children’s and young people’s cancers.