It’s very hard to accept I have cancer but don’t need to be treated.
Kate Giles found out she had small lymphocytic lymphoma, a type of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), in September 2010.
When I think about it, I’d had the symptoms of lymphoma for many years. It was only when I was actually diagnosed with small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL) that lots of things suddenly made sense.
I’d been very tired for a long time, sometimes my weight plummeted for no reason and I’d had two instances of a previous blood problem. Then I found a lump in my groin, so got it checked. My blood tests came back clear but I had a niggling doubt, which turned into panic when the lump got bigger. I was referred to the hospital but I decided to see a specialist privately, who recommended an immediate lymph node biopsy.
The next few weeks were some of the most frightening of my life. I knew I probably had lymphoma, but I didn’t know what that meant for my health. Even so, it was still a shock to be told I had SLL. I went through a huge range of emotions, but in the end it was almost a relief – at least I knew what I was dealing with.
I’m on something called ‘watch and wait’ – sometimes called ‘watch and worry’!
I haven’t had treatment yet as my cancer isn’t severe enough. I have regular health check-ups and I’ll have treatment when it’s necessary. But I still have side effects. I used to love going to the theatre or cinema, but now I’m just too exhausted.
It’s had a big impact on me emotionally. About six weeks after I was diagnosed I fell apart, so now I see a cancer psychologist which helps me cope. I go to a local support group and get support online, on social media and by blogging for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. I find writing cathartic and I hope my words can help other people going through something similar.
It’s hard to look in the mirror and know I have cancer, but see no physical difference. I’d be rich if I had a pound for every time someone says I look too healthy to have cancer! It’s hard to explain to people, as people often see cancer as an immediate death sentence.
At first I was scared that I was going to die and leave my son, Dan, without his mum. But I’ve been honest with him as he’s a big part of my cancer journey. It does feel like the end of the world when you’re diagnosed with cancer, but it doesn’t have to be. One day, thanks to research, I truly believe there’ll be tablets that can treat SLL in the same way as diabetes or heart disease – until that time comes, I’m going to live, not just exist. It won’t defeat me.