A SCOTTISH teenager was forced to stay away from all her friends and family after treatment for thyroid cancer made her radioactive.
Morgan Steele, from Ayrshire, was diagnosed with the rare form of cancer after discovering a lump in her throat.
The 14-year-old had to stay at least a metre away from everyone after undergoing powerful internal radiation.
The cancer-killing tablet made her sweat and urine radioactive and everything Morgan touched in hospital was left so toxic it had to be thrown away.
The teenager has now been chosen as the face of a Cancer Research UK’s campaign urging thousands of mums, sisters, friends and daughters to sign up for a Race for Life 5K, 10K or Pretty Muddy event in Scotland this spring.
Morgan was at first treated for tonsillitis when she discovered a four-inch long oval lump on her neck in 2014, but in February 2015 she was diagnosed with cancer after the lump was removed along with half of her thyroid.
A second surgery came weeks later to remove the rest of the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland that sits above the voicebox.
She had her first radiodine treatment, a form of internal radiotherapy in March 2015.
The side effects of the powerful radioactive pill even put Morgan at risk of setting off security alarms in shops and airports for three months.
Morgan said: “The pill, inside several protective boxes and a test tube, was wheeled in to me on a trolley by a nurse wearing gloves.
“She said I shouldn’t let the pill touch the sides of my mouth and to swallow it straight down. It was only after I took it that I began to feel scared. I couldn’t help thinking, ‘if this pill is so harmful and no-one is allowed to come near me, then why am I taking it?’. I just cried and cried.”
Morgan’s mum Diane,40, also mum to Robbie 16, Ewan, 10, and Georgia, three, was waiting outside with partner Billy Fowler, 25.
She was only allowed in to comfort Morgan after being attached to a special monitor that would sound an alarm if she was exposed to too much radiation.
Diane said: “I was only allowed in for a couple of minutes, but it was enough to help calm Morgan down.
“Leaving that room is the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do, I just wanted to stay and cuddle her. I cried all the way to the car. Life has been on hold for the past year. Race for Life is my way of standing up to this awful disease. Hopefully one day cancer will be a thing of the past and people won’t have to go through what we’ve been through. That’s why Race For Life is so important – every penny brings us closer to that day.”
Morgan endured a third operation in February this year as well as a second radioiodine treatment on March 14 this year. She’s now awaiting another scan but concentrating on her schoolwork as she works towards her goal of becoming a paediatric nurse, an ambition shaped by her experience with cancer.
She said: “Race for Life is so important. My mum is running this year and I want as many women and girls as possible to join her. It gives hope to people like me - people who are fighting cancer right now.
“All the doctors and nurses have been amazing with me. I want to be able to do that for little kids when I grow up and I think I’d be good at it because I’ll know exactly how they’re feeling. I’ve been there. I’m still there at the minute but hopefully it won’t be long before I can put it all behind me.”
Now after bravely facing three surgeries and two radioiodine treatments, Morgan is urging shoppers to get an early taste of the power and passion of Race for Life at Cancer Research UK’s Battle HQ.
The event at Buchanan Street, Glasgow, on Saturday, April 2 from 11am, is a chance for women to sign up for Race for Life as well as try funky face paint designs and nail art to get their battle look spot on. Shoppers can also capture their ‘battle cry’ alongside friends and family in the Battle HQ selfie station.
Lisa Adams, Cancer Research UK’s spokeswoman in Scotland, said: “Every hour, around three people are diagnosed with cancer in Scotland and the number of people being diagnosed with cancer has now reached around 30,200 cases each year.
“That’s why we are calling on women across the country to join the front line against the disease.
“Race for Life is not competitive. It’s not about being fit or fast. It’s the chance to be part of a go-getting, fun-loving and fearless army of women who are motivated to help raise money for life-saving research to beat cancer sooner. Scottish ladies, your country needs you.”
For more charity news, please visit: The Scotsman Giving Back
The hair and make-up for the shoot was provided by Taylor Ferguson, 106 Bath Street, Glasgow. Pix: Andy Barr.