Eleven years ago we had the news that everyone dreads. Eleven years ago, my Mum got diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. I had never heard of it and had no idea that it was a type Cancer. I did a lot of research in those following weeks and it’s now, all these years later that I am in a position, through this blog, to be able to spread the word. So here I am.
This week is Lymphatic Cancer Awareness Week, so what better time to be writing this post? What better time to contribute some of my time and energy into making others aware of Lymphatic Cancer?
I am no expert. I just know what we have lived with for the last eleven years and what we will continue to live with for the foreseeable future.
Lymphoma and Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma are types of blood cancer. There are many different sorts and to be honest, it would be too much to go into here on this post. For all of that kind of information, I would urge you to check out the Lymphoma Association website, where there is a wealth of information available. I have also included a video at the bottom of this blog, courtesy of the Lymphoma Associaton, should you want to understand it a bit better.
My Mum was diagnosed with Follicular Lymphoma which is is a cancer of the lymphatic system. It develops from the white blood cells in your body that fight infection This type of lymphoma usually grows very slowly. It is difficult to cure but is usually kept under control for many years with treatment needed only from time-to-time.
Currently, there is no cure for Follicular Lymphoma. Mum was on a ‘watch and wait’ programme for nine years before it developed into Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma. This is an aggressive type of Lymphoma that requires urgent attention in the form of chemotherapy.
Despite living with the knowledge that this could happen for nine years, when we did eventually get the news that Mum’s Lymphoma had transformed, it didn’t make it any easier to accept. It felt like we had been walking a tightrope for the best part of ten years. We’d had wobbles and worries along the way and then we finally fell off. Into a sea of chemotherapy and hair-loss.
Mum was a trooper throughout her treatment. Seeing her lose her hair was the hardest thing I have ever seen and the day she had the remainder shaved off, stays with me. I was so proud of her that day. Her hair means everything to her and to see her go through that is indescribable. It’s when the hair went that it kind of sunk in. It was really happening.
Mum had several rounds of chemo and as you can imagine, was very, very poorly. Thankfully by the end of the course, we found out that it had worked. The pesky B-Cell Lymphoma had been shrunk. She continued to have a maintenance treatment every two months for two years, this is to keep the Follicular Lymphoma at bay and reduce the chance of a relapse. Mum has just had her last maintenance treatment. It doesn’t stop there though.
All of this treatment has left Mum with a very poor immune system and what could be the most annoying of viruses to you and I can still make her really poorly. She has been on so many antibiotics this year for one thing and another. It’s things like this that you aren’t prepared for. But that’s not all.
The hardest thing to accept is that Mum’s Follicular Lymphoma won’t go away. She has to live with that knowledge every single day. As do we. We don’t know if we will be going through this again in the next year, two years, three years or five years. Or if we ever will again! We just don’t know. We are back on that tightrope, not knowing if we will fall off again.
The following information is taken from the Lymphoma Association website.
Lymphatic Cancer – The Facts
- Every 28 minutes someone is diagnosed with lymphoma*. That’s around 19,000 people every year.
- It is the UK’s fifth most common cancer.
- Around 125,000 people are living with lymphoma.
- Lymphoma is most prevalent in people over the age of 55 but is also the most frequently diagnosed cancer among younger people.
- There are no known causes.
- It is a complex disease. There are two main types of lymphoma – non-Hodgkin lymphoma and Hodgkin lymphoma and many different forms (aggressive and chronic), which makes diagnosis and treatment difficult.
- Symptoms include a lump in the neck, armpit or groin; feeling worn-out for no reason, unexplained weight loss, excessive sweating at night, constant itching for no reason.
*Includes Hodgkin lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and CLL.
Lymphatic Cancer – The Symptoms
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Unexplained weight loss
Obviously, it goes without saying that if you have these symptoms, you may not necessarily have Lymphoma. But you should always go and see your GP as soon as you have any concerns.
It’s also worth mentioning that there is always help available for anyone affected by cancer, in the form of a counsellor or a therapist. You don’t even need to leave home to access one these days. Take a look at this link for further information https://www.betterhelp.com/.
New drugs are being trialled and developed every day within cancer research and our doctors do an amazing job treating and looking after patients. I’ll be eternally grateful to my Mum’s specialists who keep a close eye on her with regular appointments and frequent blood tests.
Please, share this blog post on your social media and with your family and friends. Wherever you can. Help raise awareness for a Cancer that is more common than I ever realised and one that is very complex and difficult to understand. Thank you.
Do you know anyone that has or has had a type of Lymphatic Cancer? Let me know in the comments.
*Credit goes to the Lymphoma Association for the facts stated in this post.
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