I had never had any health issues before my diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in February 2023. I was fit and healthy - going to the gym, playing squash and running 5k once a week. I had never smoked, and hardly drank alcohol. So it was a shock to be told I had blood cancer, but it just shows how it can happen to anyone.
I had been experiencing a range of symptoms since October 2022, including some of the more common symptoms of lymphoma such as wringing night sweats and fatigue. In addition, I was experiencing intermittent pain in my spleen, a continual cough and an inability to breathe which led to me constantly being sick, and pains in my joints that would literally move from one area to another. Some days I couldn’t walk because of the pain in my knee, and then others it would be because of my ankle. In the end I was struggling to even walk the dog.
The route to finding out what was causing all my symptoms wasn’t an easy one and I actually received my lymphoma diagnosis while I was an inpatient in hospital.
Over the course of a few months, I received numerous tests and scans including ultrasounds, CT scans, MRI scans and blood tests which all proved inconclusive. After many appointments, and spells in A&E, I was admitted to hospital where I stayed for three weeks before my diagnosis. During that time, I needed a chest drain, antibiotics, and various infusions. A scan of my spleen had spurred a referral to haematology and, following a PET scan and biopsy, I received a diagnosis of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL).
It might sound odd but my overwhelming feeling when I was given my diagnosis was one of relief. I finally had an explanation of why I was feeling the way I did and it meant that there was a way forward in treating my symptoms. Hopefully I would start to feel better for the first time in many months.
I began the first of six rounds of chemotherapy in March 2023 which were given in three week cycles. The first ten days of a chemo cycle were always tough. I had a few side effects, including sickness and an altered sense of taste. But I knew that the next ten days would be better as the side effects started to ease. All the while, I kept telling myself that ‘this will pass’, and I would concentrate on the next stage and counting down the markers leading to the end of my treatment. Despite the side effects, I was actually in a much better place compared with how I was feeling before my diagnosis.
As I write this in August 2023, I have completed my treatment and am now waiting for my final scan results where I am keeping everything crossed for good news. I am actually on a couple of clinical trials for lymphoma. This has meant that, amongst other things, I have received a few extra scans which I actually found quite helpful in that I could see how things were going as my treatment progressed. I will also be on additional monitoring for a few more months, which for me is another added reassurance. It has also been good to know that I am potentially helping other people in the future, who may receive a similar diagnosis.
Since completing treatment, I have been living a normal life as much as possible whilst being careful, keeping my distance in crowded places and just generally being that little more cautious. I took part in Lymphoma Action’s Bridges of London walk two days after receiving chemotherapy which was just wonderful. The information and support my family and I have received from the Charity throughout this journey has been invaluable, particularly for my wife as she felt she was given the tools she needed to cope, and an understanding of what to expect. I have started exercising again and have continued work as a mortgage advisor. It’s just so nice to be doing ‘normal’ things again.
We are looking forward to a much-anticipated trip to Cape Verde towards the end of the year! The support and love from family and friends during this time has certainly helped me to face my diagnosis and treatment with optimism and positivity.
Jamie shared his story with us as part of our Let’s talk lymphoma awareness campaign which ran throughout Blood Cancer Awareness Month in September.