Living in the here and now helped me to cope
I had an extremely itchy rash, heart palpitations and was getting increasingly breathless. My GP didn’t know what it was but eventually, after a heart scan, I was diagnosed with an unusual case of Hodgkin lymphoma. There was a large mass of lymphoma cells growing in my chest, pressing on my heart and lungs and causing the symptoms I was having.
How my diagnosis affected the people around me
It was very tough on my husband because I went straight into hospital for treatment when I was diagnosed. He was left with difficult job of telling our children and my parents what was happening, and then all our friends. I was too busy having treatment to dwell on things, but my illness made members of my family feel angry at times. Why was it happening? I was only 51. On the positive side, it seemed to bring everyone closer together.
I have a fantastic network of friends who still tried to include me in as many social occasions as possible, booking meals out close to my home and making sure I had a lift. My closest friends took me for a make-up session and treated me to some special cosmetics for my daughter’s wedding. They even found me a hat in a charity shop.
My advice to you if you’ve just been diagnosed
The advice I’d give is to try not to panic. Of course, that’s easier said than done, but I learnt to live one day at a time, and I found that helped. I tried to plan something nice for each day: a lunch, a shopping trip, watching Pointless. If I felt panicked by something, I would try to concentrate on the next 24 hours. Generally, there was nothing particular to worry about in that time, and it stopped me fretting about results or tests that were weeks off.
One long-term effect I’ve had from chemotherapy is hearing loss. If I’d spoken up, it could have been avoided. So I’d say if you feel anything that’s different or not right, do tell your healthcare team – even if you don’t think it’s related to your treatment or the cancer. It will help your team give you the best care they can.
If, like me, you’re not well enough to work, make sure you get help sorting out your finances, such as applying for the benefits you’re entitled to. I talk more about money and work in another blog. And of course, if you contact Blood Cancer UK they’ll tell you where to get more support with financial issues and help with anything else that’s bothering you.