Towards the end of 2020, I noticed that I had developed an odd rash on my legs. It was very itchy, and the spots would sometimes bleed during the night. Initially I just thought that I was allergic to something. I changed the washing detergent I was using a couple of times, and even wondered whether it was a reaction to walking through the rough, long grass whilst playing golf! A few months on, the rash wasn’t disappearing and it was starting to spread to my feet and torso so I booked an appointment with my GP. I was prescribed various tablets and creams but nothing really worked. At the same time, I noticed some odd lumps in my neck but thought that they might have been a reaction from having a COVID vaccination. Whilst all this was going on, I felt generally well and as a keen and active runner, I was continuing to run 20-30 miles a week. Because of this, I wasn’t too concerned as I thought I wouldn’t be able to carry on running if it was anything too serious.
As time went on, the rash was not improving and the lumps in my neck were not going away like they might have done if it were simply a case of them reacting to a vaccine. After four or five GP appointments, my doctor went through a list of potential lymphoma symptoms and I ticked a few of those boxes, as by that time I was also having night sweats. My GP sent me to the hospital to have a chest -X-ray and a few days later, they called to tell me there was a mass in my chest. I then had a PET scan and biopsy which confirmed a diagnosis of stage 2 Hodgkin lymphoma in September 2021.
My thoughts immediately turned to treatment and what we were going to do to tackle it. I wanted to get started straight away and, whilst it was shocking, my thoughts were ‘OK, let’s go – this is my battle to win.’ My treatment actually started a couple of weeks after my diagnosis where, following a round of fertility preservation, I received 12 courses of chemotherapy between October 2021 and March 2022. During that time, I started writing a weekly blog and sharing photos on my social media account to help me retain control of the story, and to shed light on a condition that many people are still unaware of. Being diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma was the single most important thing that has ever happened to me. I am proud of how I dealt with it, but I couldn’t have done it without my partner Evie, my friends and family who were my support system during the darker moments.
The information I received from Lymphoma Action was also invaluable throughout my treatment. I had only heard the word ‘lymphoma’ a couple of times before my diagnosis, and I certainly wasn’t aware that it was a blood cancer. Evie and I were handed a Lymphoma Action information book at the hospital. Evie read it for me, and we talked through all of the information I needed to know about lymphoma and treatment. We reached out to Lymphoma Action via social media and since then I have been in regular conversation with them and have felt supported by the Charity the whole time. Being diagnosed with cancer is a pretty dire situation to find yourself in, but to have that support from them was just great.
Now I am keen to give back by raising funds and awareness – particularly among younger people who may have never even heard of this type of blood cancer. I have been in remission since finishing my treatment, and since then have run two marathons for Lymphoma Action - Chicago in October 2022 and London in April 2023. We also hosted a charity night in September 2022 to mark the one year anniversary of my diagnosis and I’m very happy to say we’ve raised nearly £14,500 in total since opening my JustGiving account. I’m due to run the New York Marathon in November 2023, which I’m really looking forward to! Fortunately, in many ways, my life has gone back to the same level of normality as it was before my diagnosis. In my case, I was told I had a very high chance of a full recovery which was amazing – if you get those odds, you’re taking them and I think that was what motivated me to keep going. Getting diagnosed with cancer is undeniably awful, but thankfully I was given a positive prognosis and one that I could battle against with the odds generally in my favour. Being positive and fighting it head on truly made a difference in how quickly I was able to recover, in my opinion.
Watch Ben talk about his experience with lymphoma
Ben shared his story with us as part of our Let’s talk lymphoma awareness campaign which ran throughout Blood Cancer Awareness Month in September.