WHEN Rebekah Sanderson found a lump on her neck, she was originally told she had mumps.
But just two weeks ago, she was given the devastating news that turned her life upside down.
Rebekah was diagnosed with acute leukaemia and has been undergoing intense bouts of chemotherapy.
The 19-year-old, of Waltham Close in Portchester, was forced to pull out of her second year of university and had to cancel plans to move out of home.
She has just finished her first year studying social work at the University of Portsmouth.
‘I didn’t believe that it was leukaemia,’ she said.
‘It’s scary. I got sad because I’m at university at the moment so I have had to leave.
‘My hair was long before so I have it cut just so when it starts to fall out, I won’t be losing as much hair.
‘It threw my world upside down.
‘I had plans – I didn’t think this would happen to me.
‘I don’t think I believe that I have got it myself and until my hair falls out I don’t think I will accept it.’
But Rebekah certainly hasn’t been alone in dealing with the illness.
On Sunday, her brother Curtis, aunt Luisa Sherman and friend Steve Hughes all had their hair shaved off in her honour.
An event was held at the AFC Portchester club house and over £3,000 was raised.
Half the money will be donated to Leukaemia and Lymphoma research, while the other half will go towards Rebekah, who will use some of the money to buy a wig.
‘They have been amazing,’ added Rebekah.
‘It’s distracting from what’s happening to me so by them doing this I’m not thinking about my illness.
‘I’m just massively proud of them for making all this effort and for wanting to do something for me to help other people with leukaemia.
‘I couldn’t have asked for better support from people. So many of my friends have offered to do it.’
Curtis, 17, said: ‘For me it’s a no-brainer.
‘I’m not going to look my best but I’ve already got a girlfriend and she won’t care.
‘It grows back, so as long as it makes it easier for Becky then I don’t care.’
Luisa, 38, added: ‘The first thought in my head was that my hair is coming off to support Becky.’
Rebekah will also need a bone marrow transplant and her family have all been tested to be possible donors.
To donate, visit justgiving.com/rebekahsanderson.