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‘I was in denial after discovering terrifying reason for my bulging eye’

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When Mphango Simwako reached her lowest point, Young Lives vs Cancer was there for her. The charity, which will benefit from this year’s Daily Mirror Christmas appeal, worked with Mphango after she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia.

The 25-year-old said: “It’s not easy but I know I am not alone in this journey. My life may never be the same again, and I wouldn’t want anyone else to go through what I have experienced. It’s vital to have support and guidance during such difficult times, and I am grateful for the help I have received.”

In November 2022, Mphango was gearing up for a move to Croydon, South London, from her home town of Bradford with her best friend. But a bulging eye was threatening to derail her plans. As her vision grew blurry, Mphango became more and more worried, but soldiered on.

Mphango Sionwaka was diagnosed with cancer one year ago

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Mphango in hospital

On November 19, as she unpacked in her new flat, the pressure behind her eye was becoming unbearable and she quickly took herself straight to Croydon University Hospital. The following day, doctors found a rapidly growing mass pressing against her optic nerve. Three days later, she was diagnosed.

She recalled: “For a week, I was in denial until they put me on the oncology ward and I realised they were being serious.”

Mphango began chemotherapy at Croydon’s Royal Marsden Hospital. An infection left her on a ventilator in March.

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“That was probably the lowest point,” she said. “The only thing that got me through was my friends and my relationship with God.”

Thankfully, Young Lives vs Cancer was also there, providing emotional support and practical guidance. She said: “My first social worker was really helpful. It was great to be able to talk about my trauma.”

Mphango is no longer showing evidence of the disease.

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