Zoe

Zoe talks about her diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma and how it inspired her to help others.

Zoe

'I noticed a swollen gland near my left collar bone around early Summer 2014. After a couple of weeks of it not going down, I made an appointment to see the doctor.

I was referred to the hospital to have an ultrasound scan on my neck, but at the time they said they weren’t concerned about it. They said if it persists I should go back to my doctor.

I knew this just wasn’t right. I am no expert but I was pretty sure that glands are supposed to go down and mine hadn’t. In addition, I had lower back pain, tiredness, swollen glands and itchy skin. So I went back to the GP for a second opinion and was referred back to the hospital, this time for a fine needle biopsy.

Waiting for the results was difficult, but during that time I researched my symptoms and came across the Lymphoma Action website. I think I had already come to the conclusion it was a type of lymphoma by the time I had the diagnosis.

At the end of September 2014, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, stage 4B.

Despite expecting a lymphoma diagnosis, I was still pretty shocked. After all, I considered myself healthy! My husband, who up until that time had been fairly laid back, suddenly realised that things were serious and was almost more shocked than I was.

I was 34 at the time and the only positive thing about this was that this is the most common cancer among the under 30s.

I was to start treatment straightaway with six months of ABVD chemotherapy. I was offered the option to take part in a clinical trial, but I would have had to travel some distance, so decided not to.

The six months of chemotherapy were tough. I had treatment every two weeks, and had a good day or two, before I was back for the next treatment. The chemotherapy does horrible things to your body, but for me it was bearable. A lot of the time I just wanted to sleep, my appetite changed and everything tasted unpleasant. 

After the third treatment, I lost my hair. I had really long dark hair, which I had cut into a bob, then a pixie and then I just had to get my husband to shave it off. My hair has always been important to me, so I decided to find out about wigs. It was important to me to still feel like myself, and my hair was part of that. Make up and faux hair are amazing. When my wig arrived it looked fabulous and no-one noticed it was a wig. Lots of people had no idea that I was sick, which was great as far as I was concerned.

A scan part way through showed that everything was going well. My final dose of chemotherapy was on 15th April 2015 and I was given the best news. I was in remission.

I was thrilled to be back in good health. I had always wanted to do a skydive, but had never had any cause or reason to do one. I felt there was no better time to jump out of a plane than now and fundraise for Lymphoma Action. I did a tandem skydive, raising £2,000 for the charity that provided me with all the information I needed. 

I had trained as a hairdresser and although I had never practiced, I always had an interest in hair and beauty.  I wanted to use my experience of hair loss and the tips I picked up through my experience in an inspiring way.  I have teamed up with an organisation, and work as an ambassador, plus I also work closely with people to help them choose a wig. Check out my site at www.promozo.com