CAMILLA Dickens found her life turned upside down when she was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer just after she left university.
The news was a devastating blow to her parents, who have previously lost two children to heart defects.
Now family and friends have rallied around the courageous 22-year-old, setting up a charity concert in her honour.
The event, called Cam Aid, saw hundreds of her former classmates reunite to raise £2,600 for the Teenage Cancer Trust.
Camilla, of Little Corner, Denmead, was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in February.
It is so rare only three cases are diagnosed each year in a million children. It is even rarer among adults.
Camilla said: ‘Around February, I lost a lot of weight. I was very unwell and I was tired all the time. After Christmas my stomach had started swelling massively – I looked pregnant.
‘I knew something wasn’t right. They did lots of tests and scans. They told me it was a tumour but about a week after that they said it was cancer.
‘You feel numb and you can’t believe it’s happening.
‘I wasn’t scared, but I was apprehensive because I didn’t know what would happen next. Quite a lot of the time people’s friends and family find it difficult to deal with cancer but my friends and family have been amazing.
‘I haven’t been alone for one minute. I haven’t felt sad because I know that everybody is there for me. My house was like Piccadilly Circus. It was overwhelming.’
Camilla had been offered her dream job as a teacher at Oaklands Catholic School in Waterlooville before doctors gave her the bad news.
She hopes to take up the offer in September after finishing an aggressive course of chemotherapy.
The cancer is concentrated in her lower torso.
Her mother Mandy, 51, said: ‘It’s a relief we are coming to the end of the chemotherapy but then there’s a fear of what comes next. We were so humbled by the support and love of her friends.
‘When we found out, the fear was just horrendous.
‘We had a little girl in February 1990 who died of a heart defect and Camilla’s sister Eleanor had a twin brother who also died. Both of them died unexpectedly and the heart defects were completely unrelated to each other.’
Her father David Dickens, 54, said: ‘We felt devastated. If it was terrifying for us you can’t imagine what it must have been like for Camilla.
‘The reason all those people came out is because she had always gone the extra mile for them and now they obviously want to do the same thing for her. For it to happen to someone like Camilla is doubly devastating because she gives so much of herself.’
Ex-classmates hold concert to raise cash
HUNDREDS of Camilla’s former classmates turned up at a fundraising concert held in her honour.
Cam Aid, organised by a group of her friends from school, was held to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust.
The charity has helped Camilla during her regular stays at Southampton General Hospital. Almost a dozen bands took to the stage at The Mead End pub in Denmead.
Through ticket sales, donations and a raffle, Cam Aid raised more than £2,600.
Andrew Galvin, 22, of Woodfield Avenue, Farlington, helped organise the event.
He said: ‘Cam has done so much for people over the years. It seemed right we should have an event like this for her.’
To donate to Cam Aid, visit justgiving.com/cam-aid