Former Nottingham Trent student, Zara Barton secures her dream degree apprenticeship in London, working for L’Oréal after a year battle with blood cancer.
Zara, originally from Solihull, West Midlands dismissed her persistent cough, itchy skin and the large lump she found below her neck as a result of freshers’ flu and ‘post break-up stress’.
However, after the itching and rashes on her skin became intolerable, she pressed the doctors for more answers, and kept returning because she knew ‘something wasn’t right’.
The 20-year old then received the shock diagnosis of stage three Hodgkin Lymphoma in November 2021.
Zara was a second-year fashion branding and marketing student at the time when she found a hard 2cm lump above her collarbone, which after many scans she discovered was cancer.
She remained at university for a while, making the most of her time there before her treatment begins, this was also when she started having her eggs collected to help preserve her fertility before the start of chemotherapy.
One in 505 UK females will be diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in their lifetime, according to cancer research, UK.
Due to this overwhelming news, the 19-year old at the time was forced to drop out of NTU in second term of second year, Zara said: “I was very Frustrated I had to drop out, it’s the last thing I ever wanted to do – my life is at Uni, it felt like a major setback and I was completely lost.
“I was unwell for a while looking back, and until my diagnosis I was still going out clubbing every week, on holidays and even to festivals, as any 20- year old should be, accept from I had cancer the whole time and had no clue.”
I had cancer the whole time and had no clue.”
Zara Barton, 2o
After she left Nottingham and discontinued with her studies, Zara returned home to Solihull to attend constant hospital appointments and to begin the first rounds of Chemotherapy.
Zara successfully completed all 12 rounds of Chemotherapy in May 2022, with the help of teenage cancer trust at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.
Sadly, in early July 2022 Zara found out that she has relapsed after rediscovering some familiar symptoms and found out she would have to undergo even more intense treatment in the upcoming months.
After only two months in remission this was heart-breaking news for Zara, as-well as her family and friends, one of her closest friends, Neve Durrans, 21 added: “This was a complete shock for all of us, it’s something we never expected to happen so quickly but as always Zara remained as positive as she could.”
Despite this tragic news three months later, after multiple scans and biopsies in a complete stroke of unexpected luck, Zara was soon told that she was in complete remission again as of October 2022, after a year of first being diagnosed.
“this was a complete shock for all of us”
Neve Durrans, 21
Zara said: “The last 12 months have been the toughest yet, after going through hours of chemotherapy, countless hospital trips, injections, scans, biopsies, enduring the many side effects of the medication and a lot of tears – I can’t believe I’m cancer free.
“I am now thankful for every single day and am looking forward to much happier times, I am so grateful for my family and friends who have been helping me throughout.”
Zara remained admirably positive throughout this tragedy but after being forced to drop out of university last year due to her diagnosis she was left with no real sense of purpose, feeling overwhelmingly ‘lost’.
After being told there was no active cancer in her body, Zara started to look for new opportunities after withdrawing from her fashion marketing and branding course last year.
To her surprise in October 2022, after applying for many jobs Zara was offered a degree apprenticeship with the University of Kent studying BA business management working for L’Oréal in London.
At this point Zara’s consultant still hadn’t confirmed that she was in remission so Zara still thought that she would have to leave the apprenticeship early on to begin treatment, but to her surprise she was soon told that she can stay at the job, completely cancer free.
In a very fast turnaround, nearly two years on from when she first discovered her symptoms, Zara now lives in London where she four days a week, studying for her degree one day too.
I am grateful for my health and am thankful for each and every day.
Zara Barton, 20
Zara added: “I am so happy right now with my job and am loving living in London, and grateful for my health and am thankful for each and every day.
“It is weird how I have somehow found my way into the industry I have always wanted to be in with a dream company, it amazes me how something so bad has ended in something so amazing.”
Close friend, Francesca Corbridge, 21 who ran Brighton Marathon last year alongside Zara’s dad to raise funds for Teenage cancer trust, added: “We are so proud of how far Zara has come, if you would have told any of us a few years ago that this turn of events would of happened we would have never believed you.”
“She has done so well to remain positive throughout this, it’s something I will forever be in awe of, we are all incredibly proud of her and have big hopes for her future.”