Cassie

Diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma at 24, and during a pandemic, Cassie talks about finding the treatment tough, and the challenge of losing her hair.

Cassie with her daughter

I’m 24 and have a two-year-old daughter Vienna. 

I struggle with anxiety, and found the virus and all the news, uncertainty and loss surrounding it really difficult.

In March 2020, I noticed my legs were really itchy and I was having night sweats, but I didn’t think it was anything to worry about. However, I noticed a lump near my collarbone, and it was that which led me to call my GP.

Because of COVID-19, I had a telephone consultation. Over that call we talked about the symptoms I was experiencing - night sweats, the lump in my neck and I also commented on how I had lost weight recently. My GP referred me for a scan and for blood tests straight away.

What followed was a whole range of tests – I had several scans, blood tests and they even carried out an endoscopy to see down my throat more clearly. I also had a core needle biopsy taken from my neck. Unfortunately, the sample wasn’t large enough to make a diagnosis from, so they needed to do an open cut biopsy. They explained they would not be able to do this under general anaesthetic because of where the lymphoma was. Despite being someone who normally panics about things, I was surprisingly OK. I had a local anaesthetic and, although I could see shadows, it was painless. I was home within a couple of hours.

On 1 June 2020 I was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. It was a bombshell.

 
The first session of chemotherapy knocked me off my feet and I felt tired and emotional. 
Cassie

I started treatment with ABVD chemotherapy. The first session knocked me off my feet and I felt tired and emotional. A scan showed that the lymphoma had halved, but they wanted to move on to more intensive chemotherapy, so my chemotherapy regime was changed to BEACOPPesc. My doctor also explained that I would need radiotherapy at the end of chemotherapy to get rid of the last traces of the lymphoma.  

The chemotherapy knocked me off my feet. I was glad not to have any sickness, but I did feel rubbish. I felt tired and emotional and found myself crying all the time.

Losing my hair really got to me. It was coming out in clumps, which made me feel really upset, so I decided to shave it off. I was worried that losing my hair would upset my daughter, but children are surprising resilient and accepting. I tend to wear a headscarf, but have also embraced the idea of wigs. I have five different ones and have decided to use this as an opportunity to try out all types of hair styles and colours. I am naturally mousy brown, but really like my long pink wig!

 
I feel worried that no-one is telling me that things are going well and am constantly checking myself to make sure no lumps have reappeared. 
Cassie

Physically I am doing OK, although the tiredness is totally draining. I am so used to people poking me that I now feel lost. I feel worried that no-one is telling me that things are going well and am constantly checking myself to make sure no lumps have reappeared.
 
My mum is in my support bubble, and has been taking me to hospital and doing things for us. She has been fantastic.

I know I need to avoid infections, so in some ways COVID-19 has made that easier.