This year, 2019, was the first year I had everything planned before the year started — festivals and holidays were all booked — but little did I know that I wouldn’t be able to make most of these plans. Life threw an unexpected health blip my way — cancer.
In September 2018, after I drank any type of alcohol I started feeling numbing, muscle ache pain in my right arm and down the right side of my neck. I knew something wasn’t right in my body, so I went to the doctors in the new year. After a lot of tests which came back abnormal — such as blood samples, x-rays, CT scans and biopsies — I began the waiting game to find out why I was experiencing this reaction to alcohol, and whether the lumps found in the CT scan on my right chest and above my right lung were cancerous. The diagnosis waiting game was one the hardest parts for me mentally and emotionally. Trying to live my everyday, normal life and pretend everything is ok when are these massive lumps of the unknown in me was hard, but you get through it, take each day at a time and don’t overthink what you don’t know, focus on facts is my advice!
I was diagnosed in April 2019 with stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma — a type of cancer that travels through your lymph nodes. A further CT scan confirmed two lumps — one in the right side of my chest under my windpipe and the second in my right lung. The good news is I’ve been told it’s curable, however I’d need to have chemotherapy to kill it.
Because I’m 25 and have this kind of cancer, my doctors wanted to get the ball rolling really fast. I found out on the day of diagnosis that I fit the criteria for fertility treatment where I could freeze my eggs before I started chemo, as chemotherapy reduces your chance of fertility.
The overall egg freezing/ harvesting process took about two weeks in total. You go into the clinic four or five times a week for blood tests and scans to make sure your ovaries and follicular are growing to plan and in accordance to the one injection you give yourself a day. I had two weeks of this treatment and then a one week break after a heavy egg removal operation.
I was then given the option of two different types of chemotherapy, and started the chemotherapy process in May 2019. I chose the more intense chemotherapy option called BEACOPP ; this means treatment over four days; Monday (six hours), Tuesday (four hours), Wednesday (four hours) and the next Monday (two hours). This is followed by a two week rest and recovery break and that’s one round complete. BEACOPP chemotherapy is based on four– six rounds and lasts three months, vs. the alternate chemotherapy option lasting eight to twelve months. I chose the more intense chemotherapy as I want to get this cancer blip gone as soon as possible and get back to living a normal 25-year-old life!
It’s been an absolute whirlwind and I’m sure anyone who’s going through this feels like they’re on a roller coaster that’s going a million miles an hour, but it is doable and you can get through each day. My piece of advice throughout the whole thing from symptoms to biopsies to diagnosis is make sure you have a good support system when you go to these appointments because there’s information that can be missed and it’s good to have someone you know by your side.
I decided to set up my Instagram and YouTube channels to document my cancer journey and share all the new experiences and hints and tips that I found out along the way to help others see they are not alone and that someone else can relate, from losing my hair to coping with side effects to documenting my thoughts of "was this really me who had cancer!?"
There has been so many highs and lows as everyday is so different, even now. One day I would wake up feeling fine but tired then in the next couple of hours my temperature would spike and I’d be finding myself admitted to hospital for neutropenic sepsis (when your white blood cells drop so low you don’t have an immune system so catch infections where you need antibiotics on drip within the hour of the temperature spike). But then two days later, after being attached to bags of water hydration drips & antibiotics, I’d be back home meeting up with my amazing support system of friends and family feeling ‘normal’ again. Believe me when I say it’s a rollercoaster emotionally, mentally and physically but keeps everyday fresh and different!
I remind myself daily that is all part of my journey and my life tapestry. If you’ve been diagnosed just remember this: the pain, stress, hair loss, body changes, down days… They are temporary. Don’t let cancer take your identity and steal your sense of self, it’s mind over matter! Stay positive, believe in your body’s ability to fight, you’ve got this!