This article was written by Claudia a year after her diagnosis and her dad, Roger Paul, who is the Deputy Chair of the Bone Cancer Research Trust. Benana is Claudia’s New Forest Pony.
"Over the winter of 2002/2003 I got to know Benana really well. As it came into the spring of 2003 I was starting to ride more often and finding more and more shows to go to, I went to a show nearly every weekend, coming home with lots of rosettes. I had lots planned, I was going to the riding club championships and I had lots of goals in sight. But that all ended when in June 2003 I found a lump on my right shoulder blade; I went to the doctors and then ended up in The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital, where I had a number of scans and a biopsy to try and find out what it was.
Within 3 weeks I found myself in Birmingham Children's Hospital cancer unit pending six sessions of intensive chemotherapy, surgery, another eight sessions of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It was a lot for a 14-year-old girl to take in. I had a rare cancer called Ewing sarcoma in my shoulder blade. The chemotherapy made me nauseous, lose my hair, lose all of my fitness and feel extremely ill, but it worked well. I couldn't even go up the field to see Benana, my mum had to bring him down and all I could do was sit and watch my mum groom and play with him, the things which I took for granted.
I thought my dream of riding and competing again would never come true, but with my determination and Benana helping compensate for my disability along with being such a good boy I feel as though I am able to do anything with Benana."
Whilst undergoing treatment Claudia met another Claudia with Ewing sarcoma, and they became friends going through the ordeal together, offering each other mutual support and the ability to talk openly about their situation. They both gave their Consultant a tough time with a myriad of questions, which all had to be answered with utmost honesty.
Claudia started a new school in September 2004, having missed a complete academic year whilst being treated, and by October had met Jonathan who was to become "the boyfriend". Jonathan is a truly amazing character; he accepted Claudia through all her suffering, the hair loss and the days when she felt awful, and remained her "rock" throughout her remaining life.
By autumn 2005, she began feeling unwell and a biopsy showed up problems with the bone marrow, and despite intensive chemotherapy she was told that she had a terminal illness on 14th February 2006, whilst Jonathan sat beside her holding hands. Claudia summoned up the strength to make one last trip to Gleneagles in Scotland for the wedding of a friend (with Jonathan of course); it is a place that remains very special for all of us.
I tried to tell Claudia that I understood how she felt during the treatment and on some of the dark days. I was firmly put in my place when she told me "that you don't know how I feel because you have never had cancer".
The two Claudias spent time talking after both being given the news that their condition was terminal, and seemed able to cope much better than their parents. They were born in the same month and died within 8 days of each other.
In April 2010, we organised a garden party to celebrate what would have been Claudia's 21st birthday, which was attended by 160 people. All of her friends were there to celebrate, along with the "rock", Jonathan who remains a very close friend to us both. As part of the celebrations we managed to raise approximately £11,000 that has been donated to the Bone Cancer Research Trust.