Helen A.
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Living with Hodgkin lymphoma

Helen A.
Posted by
14 Oct 2016

Diagnosis & initial treatment

I was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in June 2007. After a series of blood tests, scans and a biopsy on lumps found in my neck (although the blonde in me thought it was a strained muscle from doing circuit training!), I didn’t really have any time to think about what was going to happen or how I would cope.

Once I was diagnosed I was fitted with a pic line ( it was stage 2, starting to spread to my chest) and prescribed 16 doses of a chemotherapy cocktail, ABVD, which would occur every 2 weeks provided my immune system markers were up.

So as the nurse described my immune system would take a hammering with chemotherapy, then I’d have a week or so to recover and if my markers weren’t up, I’d be injecting myself with another drug to boost it ready for another dose.

Side-effects & hospital admittals

Without going into detail, having cancer comes with a whirl wind of side effects and complications. For example; your immune system is on the floor but you have a hole in your arm for the pic line prone to infection, and what it did make me realise is how had your body works to protect it from germs and disease.  I suffered several of the side effects of chemo including; hair loss, fatigue, ulcerated mouth, numb feet and loss of appetite. 

I got admitted to hospital twice. The second time I was half way through the treatment and commonly ‘started hitting the brick wall’. I’d lost 10% of my body weight, was put on steroids to boost my appetite  and I had developed anticipatory  nausea and vomiting  meaning I would retch at the thought of, sight of and even when some mentioned the word ‘chemotherapy’. So before each treatment I’d be given tablets (like a mild sedative) to get me through it and the nurses would cover the tray of ABVD. Positively the lumps were shrinking and I managed to carry on with all 16 doses.

The lows - not being able to go out into public places, being vulnerable from such a low immune system – having to cancel all holidays and trips away, feeling so weak and tired, loss of my hair (including eyebrows and lashes) and knowing there was a risk to my fertility.

The highs  - are there any?? YES -  Being looked after by the amazing staff in the Haematology clinic at the Heath Hospital who work under considerable pressure constantly, and being told the cancer was gone and happily in remission now for 9 years…

Life after cancer

The lows - Everyone deals with cancer differently and for me I felt I just got on with the treatment listening and doing exactly what the doctors and nurses told me and got through it. I dealt with it by putting it in a box and moving on with life – as I had a lot of catching up to do! What I couldn’t cope with was the amount of family and friends who got diagnosed with different types of cancer after me – and I hated them having to go through chemotherapy as I knew how gruelling and horrible it was…

The highs - I am now a mum to 3 year old twin boys, my hair has grown back to its original length! and I make the most of every healthy day, appreciating everything in life.

Time is a great healer as they say, and as I approach my 10th year of remission in 2017, this is the first time I’ve actually reflected properly and briefly written about my cancer experience. This is largely thanks to Bloodwise and taking part in one of their Patient Focus Groups and sharing my experiences of surviving cancer. 

I was delighted and proud when I was asked to became a Bloodwise Ambassador and am very much  looking forward to continuing to contribute and support such a great charity!!