If you log on to the social media platform Instagram and follow Caity_Plays_Stuff, you’ll see a beautiful, talented young girl, strumming her ukulele and singing pop songs for her fans.
She is a picture of health and happiness. But her appearance belies the fact that just two years ago she was dangerously ill.
Over four months in 2017, Caity Wood’s weight plummeted and her family feared she had an eating disorder. But the now-17-year-old was eventually diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of blood cancer.
It happened in the middle of her GCSEs but, despite everything that was thrown at her, she kept a smile on her face and bravely went through gruelling chemotherapy and radiotherapy. And still managed to ace her exams.
Now clear of the illness, Caity and her musical family have given back to the charities that helped them with a fundraising festival where they all performed.
‘It started becoming apparent when everyone realised I wasn’t eating,’ Caity explains. ‘A lot of people thought I was trying to lose weight. At that age when you’re faced with a 14-year-old-girl who isn’t eating your first thought isn’t going to be “she probably has cancer”.’
Blood tests eventually confirmed that it was Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Caity says: ‘When I was told it was cancer my first question was, “Am I going to die?” But they are not allowed to give you an answer even if your prognosis is positive.
‘After that day I told them I did not want to know my chances anymore. When it was all over I was told there was actually a one in five chance I would die. Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t know that at the beginning.’
Caity had a very unique way of dealing with what happened to her.
With a smile, she says: ‘Me and my friends have the darkest sense of humour. Within two weeks were were all making cancer jokes. Laughter was my solution.
‘When you get cancer you’re not going to be a ray of sunshine all the time and there were days when I didn’t do anything but sit and watch Come Dine With Me. But humour certainly got me through it.’
To blast the cancer Caity underwent six rounds of chemotherapy over six months, then two-and-a-half weeks of daily radiotherapy.
‘It is horrible, especially at that age,’ she says. ‘It went on throughout my 15th year. I was at the age when you’re starting to become really independent, going out with your friends. But all my independence was stripped away. At times I could not even bathe myself. I wasn’t able to grow into being my own person. It was very difficult.’
Caity was put on steroids for eight months which caused wild mood swings and raging hunger.
‘I was moody, cross, annoyed and angry all at the same time,’ laughs Caity. ‘Mixed with the natural hormones a 15-year-old has anyway, it wasn’t pleasant!’
During all this Caity was still attending school and managed to achieve the equivalent of all A* and As in her GCSEs.
She says: ‘I’ve always been an A* student but I had a realisation in Year 10 that I wasn’t going to get the grades I’d always worked towards (because of the cancer).
‘As far as I was concerned I had failed at the final hurdle because I could only see myself getting Bs. So I was very proud when I got my results and they were 9s, 8s and 7s (under the new A-level grading system). I got the highest score for double science for a female at my school.
‘But I worked extremely hard. I don’t know if I didn’t have cancer whether it would have been better or worse. All I could do was my best.’
Is she bitter about what she went through?
‘Everyone has their down days and there were times when I thought “this is not fair”. But I don’t think it’s less fair for me to get it than someone else. It’s going to happen to someone so why not me? It gives me a sob story for the rest of my life!’
To say thank you to CLIC Sargent, the charity that supported Caity and her family, they threw a music festival at Mount Folly Nurseries, in North Boarhunt. Her father Chris and stepmother Di are musicians and performed with their band, DiElle.
Caity also stepped on to the stage to perform songs on her ukulele. She says: ‘I love music and I love putting videos of me performing on my Instagram page. It’s fun’.
Stepmum Di says: ‘Caity has taught us all how strong it is possible to be. She's an inspiration to us all. We're so proud that she was able to perform at the Mount Folly Charity Festival, which this year has raised £24,00 for Naomi House and Jacks Place, and CLIC Sargent, the charity that supported us all through this ordeal.’
Caity now has her sights set on University of Oxford. ‘I’m doing A-levels at the moment and in a way they are more terrifying than going through cancer. I’ve been in remission since December 2017 so I don’t have an excuse not to do well!’.