How my strange seagull laugh ended up being CANCER trends now
A medical student has told how a cough and change to her voice that left her with a 'squeaky laugh' and sounding like a 'seagull' were actually signs of cancer.
Maddy Elleby, from Farnham in Surrey, first started feeling unwell with a cough while on holiday two years ago but brushed it off as the flu.
The 18-year-old said her symptoms persisted after returning the UK and doctors prescribed her antibiotics and an inhaler.
However, the medicine didn't keep her cough at bay and she developed numbness down her arm and a lump on her collarbone.
After returning to her doctor and undergoing tests, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma — a cancer that starts in the white blood cells.
While she is now cancer-free, Ms Elleby undergoes regular checks to monitor whether it has come back.
Maddy Elleby (pictured during treatment), from Farnham in Surrey, first started feeling unwell with a cough while on holiday but brushed her symptoms off as the flu
The 18-year-old said her symptoms persisted after returning the UK and doctors prescribed her antibiotics and an inhaler
Ms Elleby was in Sweden with her family two years ago when she first fell unwell.
But a month after returning to the UK, she was still suffering from a cough that left her voice sounding like a 'seagull'.
Doctors prescribed her antibiotics and an inhaler but neither eased her cough and she developed numbness down her arm and a lump in her collarbone.
Ms Elleby looked up her symptoms online, which initially suggested she had glandular fever — a viral infection that causes a fever, sore throat and swollen glands.
But she eventually landed on a page for Hodgkin's lymphoma, which is a cancer that develops in the lymphatic system — a network of vessels and glands spread throughout the body.
Hodgkin's lymphoma is a type of cancer that develops when certain types of white blood cells stop working properly.
It's one of the most common cancers diagnosed in 13-24-year-olds.
It develops in the lymphatic system – a network of glands and thin tubes that run through your body.
Certain types of white blood cells, called Reed-Sternberg cells, stop working properly and multiply and collect around glands and other parts of the lymphatic system, which causes tumours to form.
It's usually diagnosed with a biopsy of the lump
It's usually treated with chemotherapy, sometimes combined with radiotherapy.
What are the symptoms?Weight loss Breathlessness High temperature Coughing Sweating at night Feeling tired lumps in your neck, armpits or groin feeling itchy Pain or vomiting when drinking alcohol
Source: Teenage Cancer Trust
It occurs when infection-fighting white blood cells called B-lymphocytes multiply in an abnormal way and collect in certain parts of the lymphatic system. This can cause a painless swelling in a lymph node — usually in the neck, armpit or groin.
Other symptoms include a persistent cough, a fever, night sweats and weight loss.
Around 2,600 people in the UK are diagnosed each year, meaning it accounts for fewer than one per cent of cancers. In the US, 8,800 cases are spotted annually.
Ms Elleby said: 'All of my symptoms matched. That worried me, along with the fact that I was feeling under the weather and had a persistent cough.
'[The lump I found, on my collarbone] was unusual because my collarbones had always been quite pronounced.
'I went [to talk to] my older sister and said: "I think I have cancer".
'Typically of an older sister, she said: "Shut up, you're being so dramatic you don't have cancer — stop trying to freak me out".'
However, the lump started to grow and Ms Elleby convinced herself she had cancer.
She went back to see the doctor again, who sent her for a neck X-ray and ultrasound.
The medical student said: 'I wanted to go into [study] medicine, so I was medically aware. The doctor listened to me and was fantastic. She got me booked into an ultrasound and an X-ray within a week and did blood tests.'
In January 2021, Ms Elleby was told she had Hodgkin's lymphoma.
She said: 'All of my family were sitting around with tissues and glassy eyes.
'They thought the news was going to shock me but I just said: "I have cancer don't I?"
'I'd already been researching wig companies and looking at videos of people having chemotherapy.
'Having prepared myself helped but it was still an overwhelming experience and I was worried about losing my hair.'
Ms Elleby chose to only tell the news to her closest family and friends and continued going to college.
In February 2021, she started chemotherapy at The Royal Surrey County Hospital and organised her sessions around her class schedule.
She was diagnosed as stage 4, which is typically very successful with this treatment.
Ms Elleby said: 'I shaved my hair and wore a wig and