A Sunderland teenager is facing the prospect of having medical treatment thousands of miles in America after she was diagnosed with a rare cancer.
Natalia Rooks and her family have been left shocked after the 17-year-old was told she is in stage four of the rare and aggressive bone cancer Ewing sarcoma last month.
Tumours were found in her pubic bone, pelvis and her lung and medics have said that four in 10 people can be cured of it.
She is now hoping to raise £6,000 to fly to America later this year where she will undergo proton beam radiotherapy which will reduce the size of the tumours and mean that she does not need major surgery.
The treatment will be part funded by the NHS, with money needed for travelling and living costs while her and some members of her family make the trip alongside her.
Speaking to the Echo, St Anthony’s Sixth Form pupil Natalia, of Ford Estate, who even managed to complete two mock A-Level exams while waiting to be diagnosed, said: “It took around six months to get a diagnosis as none of the doctors could work out what it was.
“But an X-ray showed up the tumours and a week later I was in for my first round of chemotherapy.
“My prognosis is that I have a four in 10 chance of getting cured and the cancer not coming back.”
Sporty Natalia, who plays basketball for Biddick Titans, will have to be operated on in Jacksonville, Florida, or in Oklahoma in August.
She will need to be in the country for around three months and so far well-wishers have donated more than £3,100 towards the target.
“The radiation treatment I will get will be a lot less risky than in the UK and the doctors think they can shrink the tumours enough so that I won’t have to have surgery.
“It would mean removing my hip joint and I’m not sure if I’d be able to play basketball again if that happened, so hopefully this will be more effective.”
While Natalia, a former Sandhill View School pupil, admits that news of her condition has been hard to accept, family and friends have rallied around her and she remains positive.
Dad James Rooks and mum Gaynor McKenzie, both 46, sisters Sophie Sullivan, 23, and Imogen Gonsalves, six, brother Curtis Rooks, 19, and step-brother Nathan Dodds are all supporting her in her fight.
“It has been very difficult for myself and my family, but we’re starting to come to terms with things and we have a great support system which has helped us,” said the teenager, who is currently going chemotherapy at Newcastle’s RVI.
“The nurses and support workers at the RVI are amazing too and I wouldn’t have been able to get through things without them.
“I know things are going to be pretty difficult, but I’m determined to do this.
“If it’s going to mean a better outcome for me by going to America then so be it.”
A charity football match is set to take place at Sandhill View’s 3G pitch at 5pm on Wednesday, July 5, to help boost Natalia’s fund-raising.
For more on Natalia’s progress search for “Natalia’s fight against Ewings Sarcoma” on Facebook.
To donate towards her fund-raising appeal go to www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/nataliasbattleagainstewingssarcoma.