Updated: Jun 22
Two of the most discussed topics within the public today, Cancer and Covid. Whilst most of us are learning to live with covid and its effects, some of us may not know much about cancer, the different types, or those that affect certain age brackets.
In this blog, I want to share with you my story, of my Blood Cancer (Hodgkin’s Lymphoma),being diagnosed, and having treatment during covid.
Leading up to August 2020, life had been somewhat normal. As a country we had already been through our first Lockdown, on the 3rd August the government set out its Eat Out to Help Out scheme meaning families could enjoy going out and we were actively being enticed to eat out and socialise. I have many photos of this time of our family spending more time together and being happy to see each other again. I felt healthy and normal with no obvious signs of cancer and started to enjoy life living in Bristol as we had recently moved from Somerset.
Cancer, covid, nails and business.
It was in late August 2022 that I went to the South Bristol walk in center for a pain in my arm which wasn’t related to the lump in my neck which the nurse discovered moments later. I’d like to find the nurse that saw me that day, and thank her for pretty much saving my life, If she hadn’t noticed the lump on my neck I wouldn’t be here today.
Hodgkins lymphoma cancer
The lump in my neck transpired to be enlarged lymph nodes and I was quickly rushed through Ultrasound scans and biopsies to try and determine exactly what was causing this. I will never forget the moment that I asked the team doing the ultrasound if it was cancer, of course they can’t say yes or no, but what they did say was it wasn’t filled with fluid and i just knew, at that point I was thinking and expecting the worst.
From there on I had lots of scans and consultation meetings, everyone who has to wait for their scan results will say its the longest weeks of their life and the mental turmoil you go through is exhausting.
In September 2020 I was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkins Lymphoma.
Having the Picc line put in.
The scan results showed I had enlarged lymph nodes in my neck, under both armpits, in my Esophagus, around my heart, at the bottom of my lungs, and in my bone marrow. By this time, I had already started preparing for Chemotherapy. A lot changes during Chemo, simple things like you can’t have any dental work carried out because of the infection risk, so beforehand I had to have teeth taken out that could have caused issues during my Chemo. You are also given the option to freeze your eggs as there’s an increased risk that Chemotherapy can make you infertile, this itself is a daunting prospect especially at the age of 29. Luckily I already have two amazing children, and so I decided not to freeze my eggs, I also wanted to start Chemotherapy as soon as possible as being stage 4 already, time was not on my side.
When it was time to shave my head, I wanted to be in control of my hair falling out and how I looked, as I had very little control over my body changing due to the Chemotherapy. The kids watched my now husband shave my hair, my daughter gasped and my son just cried and said “You don’t look like my mummy anymore”, to hear that was one of the hardest parts of our journey.
I then went to have a picc line put in my arm, for the drugs to go direct into my body, I’ve worked in care and hospitals beforehand so needles and operations don’t worry me. The plan was for 6 months of ABVD, each letter stands for the name of a drug, so 4 different drugs, every 2 weeks for 6 months, 12 rounds altogether. My first Chemotherapy didn’t go to plan, it made me very sick and I ended up back in hospital that evening to relieve the sickness and pain. With all future Chemo treatments throughout the 6 months I had to have an special anti sickness tablet which needed an hour to work, before any drugs entered my system.
I remember arriving at the Chemo suite strong and feeling good but walking out feeling tired and sick, it was a very surreal sensation because you think of hospitals making you better, but each time I left I felt gradually worse. The drugs they give you kill the cancer, but at the same time it also kills everything else from blood cells to nose hair.
The Limbo arm covering that I had to wear for 6 months when having a shower or bath. The next few months of chemotherapy went well. I made cakes for the nurses, and kept myself busy during the day by planting flower seeds. This helped keep me occupied and gave me something to nourish and I could watch the flowers grow over time.