My symptoms began over a year before my diagnosis and began with skin irritation on my feet and calves. I had just started a new job where I was wearing work boots and work trousers so just blamed my irritation on that and for a long time didn’t do anything about it.
A couple of months had gone past and I went to see the doctor about it because my legs became quite painful and some small cuts had been made on my legs from scratching so much and after a quick examination they presumed it was eczema and prescribed a cream for me to try which didn’t really do much. I hadn’t even heard of lymphoma before my diagnosis so I wasn’t aware of the symptoms to be looking out for, and the lump that I had was in my chest so I never would’ve known about it if I hadn’t had a CT scan done.
When lockdown started I began having loads of sleepless nights caused by my skin irritation and now night sweats too and after 3/4 months of this, my girlfriend encouraged me to do an e-consult and eventually see a doctor. The first blood tests I did with them were inconclusive so they had me back at the surgery for more and they said they were inconclusive as well so decided to get me in for some scans, which is when they found a lump in my chest. After getting booked in for a covid test to make sure I wasn’t contagious I had an overnight stay in the hospital to have a biopsy taken out on me to identify whether or not the lump was cancer as they were unsure at the time. It took a few weeks to get the results but eventually, the phone rang and the doctor on the other end told me I had stage 4 classic Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
It was a brutal hit and after the call, things moved quite quickly. I saw my oncologist to determine which route I would go through with treatment, I was booked into a fertility clinic just in case chemo did irreversible damage to my fertility and before I knew it, I was put on a research trial for avelumab, a form of immunotherapy to try and boost my immune system before starting on ABVD. The trial was 2 cycles of 2 treatments (4 in total) and following that was 4 cycles of ABVD and then 2 cycles of AVD, after some PET and CT scans yielded some good results.
I’m yet to find out if I’m in full remission but some scans coming up will be able to tell the doctors if chemo was successful and we’re all hopeful that it’s good news. Since being diagnosed I’ve had a birthday, celebrated Christmas, moved into a new flat with my girlfriend, and every step of the way I’ve been scared. What’s allowed me to get through this is the love of my family and my girlfriend and the support from all the doctors and nurses who are truly some incredible people and despite all the horrible things I’ve had to endure this past year I feel like it’s made me a much stronger person in the long run.
At the start of chemo I decided to shave my head to prepare for the hair loss that I was going to face, I thought that if I was going to be bald it’ll be because I wanted to do it not because I had to, and doing so felt quite empowering. It wasn’t for a few months that my hair would start to fall out and I’d find little hairs on my pillow or would see some come out in the shower and honestly it was quite upsetting. There was a noticeable difference in the thickness of my hair and it made me quite self-conscious, to the point where I’d always have a hat on no matter where I went. However, one day I felt braver than normal and decided to leave the house without one. It was a bit scary but it was fine, nobody was staring nobody even seemed to care which made me feel a lot better about the whole situation. What I’m going through at the moment is temporary and eventually, the hair loss will stop and I’ll be back to normal again, which goes to show it’s not the end of the world.