Shiv Meaker was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma in summer 2012 at the age of 33.
"By the time I received my confirmed cancer diagnosis, it was actually something of a relief. I’d spent 5 weeks in a crazy cloud of “have I haven’t I” limbo after being referred for an Ultrasound scan following a car accident and a case of whiplash where the lump in my neck just wasn’t going down. The doctor who carried out the scan said I needed more tests but he handed me a letter for my GP that ended “Patient is aware of possibility of lymphoma/malignancy.” They also gave me bourbons with a sugary tea.
By the time I was having my biopsy in May, I’d found another lump at the front of my neck which was making it harder for me to breathe. I had a CT scan to make sure I was ok to go home and I sported my biopsy scar like a love bite – perfect timing for the work’s lunch the next day and the wedding I was attending at the weekend.
I was officially diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma stage 2A in the middle of June and started a course of 4 months of ABVD chemo at the end of that month. I was told I had a 90% chance of this curing me. I decided that was the best odds out there, just with a student discount applied.
I didn’t find chemo easy, but I more or less stuck to the fortnightly schedule. I was really lucky to have such an immense group of friends and family members to help me through: Team Meaker. There was a strapline for the Team which came about thanks to an amusing autocorrect on an email from a friend who hoped I “would just beat it” but instead asked that I “just be a tit”. I had badges designed by a pal to make it all feel more official – in fact at my first treatment one of the nurses said they didn’t usually see patients with their own brand!
Me dressed as Native American back in August 2012, midway through ABVD treatment, showing cancer How…
Dressing up and wearing all sorts of crazy headgear to my chemo sessions became a huge part of my journey. It was one of my ways of trying to own the experience; I didn’t want to be a victim. At my last treatment I vividly recall hearing a nurse say “It’s not every day you see Father Christmas getting cannulated.”
I didn’t work through treatment but I did keep up my recently rediscovered love of fitness with trips to the gym whenever I could. I also took up cycling again which saw me go from wobbly chemo-fuelled five mile runs which took all my puff to completing a London to Brighton ride the following summer.
Cancer hits you from all angles, and I certainly felt my sense of self was stripped away. My health, my career, my hair, my (niche appeal) looks. And it hurt to see people I really cared about struggling, sometimes not even sure what to say to me. I used to say “Let’s try Hello and take it from there.” But through it all I found an inner core of strength I didn’t realise I had. I could not have got through it alone but at my essence there was a determination to make the best of whatever the situation.
An exhausted but happy me after the Sussex Weald Bike Ride
I read up on treatment for lymphoma and was struck dumb to think if my Mum had had what I did when she was my age, she would have died. Cancer isn’t a fair battle because you have no control over whether the treatments will work or not. But with continued research I believe we can help more and more people hear that their scans are clean so they can go out, grab life by the hand and take it for a turn around the block some more."
Team Meaker has raised more than £2200 so far for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research through various fundraising activities including dressing up in fancy dress and taking part in the London to Brighton cycle race.
Read more about Shiv's post-lymphoma fundraising endeavours.
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.