Sunderland teen in cancer remission following treatment in America

Natalia Rooks
Natalia Rooks

A Sunderland teenager who has been battling cancer says she is looking forward to getting her life “back on track” after specialised treatment in America.

A funding campaign was set up to raise £6,000 to help meet the costs of Natalia Rooks’ treatment in Florida last autumn.

Natalia Rooks post-headshave.

Natalia Rooks post-headshave.

Now, the 18-year-old has had the amazing news that she is in remission from the disease.

The teen was diagnosed with Stage 4 of aggressive bone cancer Ewing’s Sarcoma in May last year, while studying for her A-levels, after tumours were found in her pubic bone, pelvis and her lung.

Natalia, underwent chemotherapy at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, but faced having medical treatment thousands of miles away.

Although the proton beam radiotherapy to reduce the size of the tumours and avoid surgery was part funded by the NHS, Natalia and her family had to cover travel and living costs themselves.

The whole experience of what I have been through shouldn’t be wasted. I want to use it to help other people

Natalia Rooks

And, thanks to the generosity of everyone who donated, they smashed the £6,000 target and the young woman flew out to a clinic in Jacksonville last September with her mum, Gaynor McKenzie, 46, and sisters, Sophie Sullivan, 23, and Imogen Gonsalves, six, and spent ten weeks undergoing the intensive therapy.

This week, following scans, Natalia got the brilliant news that she was in remission.

She said: “It was just amazing. It is really hard to describe the feeling, it was so emotional to get the news. It was a huge mix of feelings, joy and happiness.

“Now, I know the cancer is gone, I can start to get my life back on track.

Natalia Rooks has her head shaved

Natalia Rooks has her head shaved

“I still have to have some treatment, but knowing I am in remission makes it so much easier.”

Natalia, of Ford Estate, said the treatment in America has clearly worked and she is very grateful to everyone who helped her on this journey.

The former St Anthony’s Sixth Form pupil, said: “I would just like to thank everyone who has supported me. All the staff at the RVI and everyone who helped raise the money, it was a huge help.”

Being diagnosed with the cancer, which medics said around four in ten people can be cured of, has completely changed Natalia’s outlook on life.

Natalia Rooks with her great exam results despite undergoing gruelling treatment.

Natalia Rooks with her great exam results despite undergoing gruelling treatment.

She said: “You have to grow up really quickly, even the little children who are diagnosed, because it is such a massive thing you are dealing with.”

And, although she isn’t certain what career path she wants to take, the teenager says it will be something connected to healthcare.

She said: “This whole experience of what I have been through shouldn’t be wasted. I want to use it to help other people.”

Natalia said she is also pleased that the proton beam radiotheraphy treatment she had might soon be on offer at a clinic in Manchester, meaning people like her will no longer have to travel abroad for it.