Location: Berkshire, UK
Diagnosis: Hodgkin's Lymphoma (Stage 4)
The beginning of my cancer journey is somewhat unlike the norm. I have heard of horror stories where patients have been ignored by doctors for months, not taken seriously or misdiagnosed completely even though the patient was adamant they knew it was cancer. I was quite the opposite.
In a short space of time I showed symptoms that ticked nearly every box of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. So much so, that when I went to the doctor there was no messing around. I had experienced dramatic weight loss, night sweats, fever, flu, fatigue, itching and had a plum-sized lump in my neck. I was very quickly sent for all the tests (bloods, FNA, chest x-ray, CT scan etc.). Over the short 2 weeks this was happening, I was sure it was just a cold or at worst, Glandular Fever. Even when the hospital called and said I must go in right away to get my results, I huffed and puffed as I was meant to be going on a lovely weekend away in Bath with my boyfriend and going to hospital meant we would need to leave a few hours later than planned! That appointment didn’t quite go as I had expected – I was told I had Lymphoma.
Having spoken with the doctors, the biopsy and PET scan were next. I had been prepped that I would have a few weeks before starting chemotherapy, enough time to save some eggs, get my hair cut and to prepare myself – this wasn’t quite accurate. On the Thursday after being told I had Lymphoma I was asked to come to the hospital that day to start steroids. They wanted to start my first chemotherapy the next day.
I think the speed in which it all happened was my saving grace; I went from thinking I had a bad cold to stage 4 cancer in a couple of days. I strapped on my helmet and readied myself for action!
I had quite a tough battle with mental health the year before last and had finally got myself back together, so when I was told I had cancer I was going to do everything in my power to ensure I didn’t fall back to where I was. I very much went into my treatment and cancer journey with a positive, can-do mindset. I told myself it doesn’t matter how hard it gets, I will get through this with a smile on my face. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I haven’t had my fair share of melt downs! I count myself lucky that from the start of my journey I have had an incredibly positive and humorous support network who always trying to find the fun in every situation – this hasn’t been too hard either when I am walking around like Mrs Potato Head!
Being hit with the cancer stick is by far the hardest thing I have ever faced, but a friend of mine once said, "it’s all in the attitude". We can be faced with such difficult situations in life that can’t be changed, but what we can do is change the way we face them.
So for example, instead of finding negatives with being bald, I see it as a positive. I have saved a fortune at the hairdressers, updated my beanie collection and it is now a larger surface area for my pugs to lick!
I find being able to focus my energy on something positive is a great distraction. I channel a lot of my energy into fundraising for the hospital treating me; for one of my fundraising events I am turning up to chemotherapy in full blown fancy dress! Also, connecting with other online cancer buddies and communities has kept me focused on all the positives. Meeting and speaking with some inspirational and empowering individuals inspires me to keep going.
One piece of advice:
Take bribery biscuits. Chemotherapy sessions can seem a daunting place when you first go, but they don’t have to be. Every session I go to I take a box of goodies and use them as bribery to make chemo friends. I walk around the room before being ‘plugged in’ and introduce myself. You may be seeing these faces a lot, so it's nice to get to know your fellow cancer buddies. Also, chatting to others that truly understand what you’re going through is a godsend and it’s amazing how fast you will start discussing the weird and wonderful side effects of chemotherapy with your new buddy! It brightens my day when the chemotherapy ward is full of smiles and laughter.
Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Brave Collective. While the information is considered to be true and correct at the date of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of the information.