A physiotherapist from Lewisham who overcame stage four lymphoma has said she feels “spectacularly lucky” to be alive.

Caroline Harbord, 53, is all-clear after beating follicular lymphoma that had spread all over her body more than a decade ago.

She is now volunteering as a ‘buddy’ for Lymphoma Action, a charity that helped her through a confusing and frightening time, which puts her in touch with people battling the illness today.

Since her incredible recovery, Caroline has committed time to raising awareness of symptoms of lymphoma which may not be obvious to everyone.

“People don’t recognise the symptoms. I’m a physio and I know what the red flags are for cancer – night sweats, weight loss – but I didn’t have any of those,” she told News Shopper.

“It started with a very mild pain in my tummy that was not bothersome but it seemed to be there all the time.”

After visiting her GP with tummy trouble, Caroline began treatment for irritable bowel syndrome – but the real diagnosis turned out to be much more serious.

“Things got worse but I still had no suspicion that I had cancer. If I bent over to do up my shoelaces I felt dizzy and I didn’t like lying on my tummy.

“I thought I was constipated. My abdomen became really hard and I looked like I was six months pregnant.”

About a year after her IBS diagnosis, concerned Caroline was sent for an ultrasound which revealed “huge tumours” in her body.

“The guy’s face just dropped,” she recalled.

Caroline, 40 years old at the time, then began a gruelling six cycles of chemotherapy at Lewisham Hospital – her place of work - which she underwent every three weeks to tackle the tumours, which had wrapped around her aorta and spread to her bone marrow.

Throughout her treatment, Caroline said hope kept her feeling positive while she kept in touch with her own lymphoma buddy.

“I had contacted Lymphoma Action and they were so supportive. They were the first people I had had a conversation with where I wasn’t completely terrified,” Caroline said.

She now wants to “give back” to the charity that helped her through her struggle.

“[The charity] will usually put me in touch with somebody who has a similar cancer to me.

“There are a few people who contact me really regularly but I leave it up to them.”

As well as the treatment process, Caroline also wants to raise awareness of support for people who are in remission.

“After treatment is the hard bit. There’s this kind of resounding silence where you think: ‘Do I just sit here and wait for it to come back?’

“When you’re ill and you’re in hospital having chemo and you lose your harm, everyone’s being nice to you.

“Once it’s finished, people think: ‘Oh, it’s over now’ and you suddenly haven’t got that support.”

Through the buddy scheme, she has coached dozens of people just getting to grips with their diagnosis.

“It does help them to know I’m 13 years on and I was very advanced at stage four.”

Since her recovery, Caroline is still working as a physiotherapist at Lewisham Hospital and is also been a member of the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir which famously made Christmas Number 1 in 2015.

“I realise how getting older really is a privilege, and I am so grateful for being able to look forward to the next stage in my life.

“It is survivable and just to have that bit of hope really helps.”