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Molly shares her experience of being diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma during her second year at university.



I was 20 and enjoying my second year at university studying Geography when I noticed that I was starting to feel very tired. It got to the point where I was too tired for lectures, and I started to fall behind on work. Before that, I would enjoy going out with my friends, but I started to find that I would feel unusually unwell the next day if I went out for drinks. I would have a stomach ache and a really bad hangover and found that one drink would get me drunk and ruin my night. 

I went back home for a break as I felt so tired and drained, and that was when I found a lump on my neck. Initially, it was a swelling the size of a golf ball, which went down in size to a smaller lump. I went to the GP and had blood tests which came back normal. They initially thought the lump was due to me previously having glandular fever, but then I found another lump. I was sent away again, but on the third visit I insisted on a referral and I was sent to the hospital for further tests. I had an ultrasound scan which raised concerns with the medical team, so I was then sent for a biopsy where I had to wait six weeks for the results.

The waiting for the outcome of my biopsy was definitely the worst part but I knew I had cancer as I know my body so well. I wanted to escape and enjoy life while I could so I tried to keep busy by working as a waitress and seeing friends, but all the while I felt so tired and drained. I would get home and just collapse and fall asleep while still in my work clothes. I was eating well and getting a full nights sleep but it still wasn’t enough. I was just exhausted 24/7. I didn’t have any other symptoms of lymphoma like night sweats or itching, but the constant tiredness, lumps and pain after drinking alcohol made sense once I received my diagnosis of lymphoma in June 2022.

Further tests, including a PET scan showed that I had stage 2 Hodgkin lymphoma, which required treatment with chemotherapy. I received six rounds of ABVD chemo, after initially being told I would need 12 but as I went into remission quite soon the total number was reduced. I tolerated the treatment quite well, and I still wanted to get up and out to see people and live my life as normally as possible. I was told in September 2022 that I was in remission, but unfortunately my lymphoma relapsed in December 2022.

I knew I had relapsed once I found another, big lump in the same spot as when I was first diagnosed. I was away in the Lake District and couldn’t enjoy myself as I knew it was back. After undergoing fertility preservation, I was put on another chemotherapy regimen, GDP, in preparation for an autologous stem cell transplant. The regimen didn’t work well for me, as it was so strong so I switched to an immunotherapy drug called Pembrolizumab which eventually put me into remission in July 2023. 

I was taken into hospital at the end of August 2023 to prepare for the stem cell transplant. Five days of straight chemotherapy were followed by the actual transplant on the 7 September. It was scary but before I went in my family made cakes and balloons, and my friends held a party to make it more of a time of celebration which really helped. 

Since being told I am in remission, I have been learning to drive, travelled to Italy and Barcelona and have got my hair extensions back! It’s been wonderful seeing friends and living my life again. I want to go back to work and am thinking about education again through a degree apprenticeship. I am also looking forward to going travelling at the end of the year – solo to Australia! Cancer put me back so many steps, but it also put me forward to do the things I wouldn’t have done before like travelling by myself. I can honestly say I am the happiest and healthiest I have felt in years since before my diagnosis. 

Throughout my lymphoma experience, I have been trying to raise awareness about the condition and support others going through something similar. I started to post about my journey on social media after my relapse, as a way of helping others and highlight the wider issues that young people living with cancer face when it comes to relationships, work and study. For me, it was so important to feel part of a community, and I was so grateful to have so many people there for me throughout my experience. I felt safe speaking with people who have also been through it. I found that the personal stories on the Lymphoma Action website brought me some peace and reassurance that I will be OK. If I had a mental block and felt like I couldn’t do anything that day I would look at these positive stories and find the motivation to get on with things. 

My advice to anyone who is concerned about how they are feeling is to listen to your body – it does speak to you. Mine was screaming at me to get checked, and I knew from the get-go that something was wrong. My question would be what’s the harm in getting it checked? Most of the time it will be nothing and even it is something, if you have caught it early then you are in a much better position.