Cancer is a scary experience no matter what age you are but everyone is more shocked when the patient is younger - including the patient themselves. I was 18 when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma and from that moment, I thought I had lost everything I had to look forward to.
It started off in April 2013, I found a lump on my neck, about the size of a golf ball. People told me not to worry and it would probably go down, but it just got bigger so I went to my GP who checked for other lumps and booked me in for a blood test which came up with an abnormality in my white blood cells. I was then referred to a neck and throat speciailist who tried to take a sample of the tumour but had no luck. I was booked in for a CT scan for the first bank holiday in May and got the results two days later.
At first my consultant was just telling me about how my spleen was enlarged and I had more lumps along the lymph nodes along my chest, which panicked me as all I had imagined was a simple operation! But that was not the case. He mentioned the word lymphoma and having never heard of it before, I had to ask what it was. As soon as the 'C' word came my whole world felt like it broke down. You never expect that at the age of 18, when you have the whole world ahead of you. All I remember after that is constantly crying, not taking in anything the consultant had said. My mind went blank and all I could think about how scared I was and how I just wanted to wake up from the nightmare.
I was booked in for a biopsy for the next day, I had never had anything like this and the thought terrified me. I remember the biopsy really well, it was such a weird feeling. I was giving local anaesthetic and they had to inject a tube in me to get the sample. It didn't hurt, it just felt weird when they took it out and I could feel it go into the lump. It was such a strange feeling.
This was a surreal week, luckily ending on the Thursday and the Monday after my A-Level exams were due to begin, very stressful! The next week I got my results which unfortuantely came back positive and I was diagnosed with Nodular Sclerosis Type IIIA Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
I was booked in to meet my haemotolgist that week to talk about treatment plans, and he agreed to wait a month so I could get my A-Level exams out of the way (hooray). My chemotherapy was due to start the day after my last exam (18th June). Although I had a PET scan on the 30th May to see how badly the cancer had spread.
As well as having to start my chemo on the 18th June, I also had to have a port fitted as my veins are really weak. I had to be sedated for this and I remember it being such a weird feeling, I don't remember any of it. I just remember waking up with a little lump in my chest.
I then had chemo every fortnight until the 19th November. Luckily, I didn't get sickness from my chemo, just smaller side effects like bowel problems and the odd tingling in my fingers. I also had a PET scan after my fourth treatment to see the progress of the chemo which came back as deuville score 2, so I was now in metabolic remission! Unfortunately, I still had to go through 8 more chemo sessions!
I was overly excited for the 19th and for my treatment to end, I couldn't wait for the day to be over, and as much as I loved my nurses, I prayed I never had to see them again. That same Friday I had my port removed.
Then in January I had another CT scan to see how my organs were and I had yet another scare. The scan showed I still had a mass around my lymph nodes, which apparently is common, but I had to have yet another PET scan just to be on the safe side, and luckily the results came back negative at deuville score 1, I was completely cured!
At the beginning of February 2014, I was discharged from the hospital with no follow up treatments, but the biggest impact this illness has had on me is emotionally as I have lost a lot of confidence with losing my hair and many people around me. But cancer also made me a stronger person, I am now determined to fulfill everything I want in life. Now I'm looking to the future and nothing is going to stop me.
If you've recently been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma and have yet to receive treatment you could be eligible to take part in a new clincial trial. Read more here.