Cancer patient returns to UHS to beat disease as a researcher

Woman who beat cancer twice returns to UHS to beat the disease as a researcher

A young woman who fought the same cancer twice as a teenager has returned to the hospital she says saved her life - as a high-flying researcher trying to beat the disease.

Catherine Pointer first battled leukaemia when she was 14 years old and again three years later when her cancer returned, forcing her to undergo a full bone marrow transplant that she feared might kill her.

Now 12 years later - and facing her third cancer battle after being diagnosed with a form of skin cancer - the 26-year-old, who is backing this year’s Stand Up To Cancer campaign, says she is determined to devote her career to finding better treatments and, she hopes, ultimately a cure for the disease.

With GCSEs, A-Levels and a Biomedical degree under her belt despite how ill she was, Catherine is on the cusp of becoming a doctor as she completes her PhD at the Cancer Research UK Southampton Centre on the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust site. There she works among an elite group of scientists and clinicians focussed on improving treatments and survival rates for head and neck cancer patients.

Watch the video of Catherine's story here

Away from the labs, she’s having ongoing treatment while also making final preparations to tie the knot with fiancé Ash, a Sandhurst army captain, in a fairy-tale wedding next year. Catherine’s also living with the lifelong effects of her leukaemia battles and the fact she will struggle to have children of her own, leading the couple to make a heartfelt plea to their family and friends not to bring gifts but to help them fund IVF treatment instead.

She said: “Being back in Southampton but now as a cancer researcher rather than a cancer patient feels like the exact right place for me to be, like it’s gone full circle.

"I started my PhD in cancer research wanting answers about what had happened to me. Now I’ve developed a mild skin cancer as a direct result of the treatment I had, it’s about self-preservation. I don’t want the next 14-year-old girl to go through what I’ve had.  

" All I want is to grow old with my soon-to-be husband and be able to raise a family. I now know I can’t stop myself getting cancer again, but by working at CRUK Southampton I can make sure I’ll be ready for it next time. That’ll help a lot of other people along the way too.”

 “I want to see the day that people going through cancer can come through the other side and be able to live, not just survive with a lifetime of side effects from the treatment they had. People shouldn’t have to choose survival at the expense of being able to live – there has to be a better outcome than that.”