When you think about it really, all the signs had been there for a long time but it was only when I was actually diagnosed with small lymphocytic lymphoma/chronic lymphocytic leukaemia in September 2010 that a lot of things fell into place. I’d been very tired for a long time, had occasions when my weight had plummeted for no obvious reason and I had had two previous instances of ITP, a type of bleeding disorder - in 2003 when my son was 15 weeks old and again in January 2008.
I found a lump in my groin purely by chance in April 2010 – I’d lost weight when my marriage broke up two months before and I had been taking part in a pedometer challenge at work so assumed it was a hernia but went to get it checked out by my doctor.
I had blood tests which came back clear but there was always a niggling doubt about the lump which turned into panic when I woke up one morning in August and the lump had got a lot larger. I was referred to a specialist but warned that I would have to wait for an appointment so decided to see a specialist privately in the interim.
I was advised that I needed a lymph node biopsy without delay so had the lump removed the following week. I’d already been on the internet and had self-diagnosed lymphoma but it was still a hell of a shock to be told that they were actually looking for lymphoma. I went through a whole gamut of emotions in the two weeks waiting for the results to come back and when I finally heard that it was cancer it was almost a relief, since I then knew what I was dealing with.
I haven’t had chemotherapy yet, since although my cancer at stage 3 is classified as advanced, the only symptoms I currently experience are night sweats and fatigue and I remain on watchful waiting with four-monthly checks whilst everything remains comparatively stable. The challenge is predominantly mental at present since it’s very hard to accept that I have cancer but that it isn’t being treated and I have to keep my inner “little voice” in check and remind myself that my cancer is chronic but not yet acute.
At first I was scared that I was going to die and leave my son without his mum but as time goes on, I endeavour to live as normal a life as possible and to relish the opportunities that each day brings. I see a cancer psychologist every six weeks through my health board and spend my spare time where I can trying to raise funds for cancer charities.
I’m very lucky that I’m healthy at present but wish that I had a pound for every time someone says to me that I can’t possibly have cancer because I look too healthy! There is a stereotypical view of cancer patients that is often completely inaccurate and I would love to tackle that preconception head on. After all, an obese smoker can get life insurance, but I, with my low blood pressure and an ideal BMI can’t!