|Posted on 11 June, 2016 at 13:40|
Hodgkin's Lymphoma is a form of cancer that develops in the Lymphatic System. It is also sometimes referred to as the 'young person's cancer' as it most commonly occurs in the 15-30 age group and then the over 70's. Statistics say around 1,900 people will develop Hodgkin's Lymphoma a year. Hodgkin's is a different form of cancer to Non-Hodgkin's. In Hodgkin's Lymphoma the B-Lymphocytes (white cells) start to multiply in an abnormal way and begin to collect in certain parts of the Lymphatic system such as the Lymph nodes or collect together as a mass (tumour). Hodgkin's Lymphoma will require ABVD Chemotherapy treatment, the amount of chemo cycles will depend on the stage of the cancer. The cause for Hodgkin Lymphoma is not known, you cannot catch it as some people asked me, I'm not even going to justify that ridiculous question with a longer answer! There maybe a link between Hodgkin's Lymphoma and the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) the common virus that causes Glandular Fever, but not all people who have had Glandular Fever will develop Hodgkin's, to be honest I can't remember ever having proper Glandular Fever.
The most important thing to get across is that Hogdkin's Lymphoma is highly treatable, the figures vary from source to source slightly but most are over 90%. Don't go into a panic when you read survival for 5 years, this is simply your remission time, not that you will live 5 years. This term just means that over 90% of people were alive and healthy 5 years after they finished treatment and are classed as out of remission. Hodgkin's is also one of the few cancers that will can have the word cured attached to it as most others will be classed as treatable. Also most medical professionals will openly tell you that if you have to have any cancer, this is the one to have. So if you are sitting reading this after been newly diagnosed, you may think its crazy but by having Hodgkin's out of all the cancers, you have the odds in your favour, and if it has to be cancer its a lucky position to be in.
The symptoms for Hodgkin's Lymphoma, come on fairly slowly most of the time. It doesn't hit you like the flu does, feel great one day, awful the next. I found it was just a general run down feeling, that didn't go away and got worse over time. The main trouble with this, is you can easily put these things down to other things, particularly as Hodgkin's commonly hits the 20's age group. From mid twenties most people will be in full time work, a home of their own, maybe children starting to come along. It's the age where you are trying to juggle adjusting to grown up life while not missing out on been young either, so feeling more tired, well you just assume that's normal and maybe its the first sign of ageing? Of course 20's isn't old but it's not your teens either so you can adjust to feeling more tired and just think its completely normal. However there is a difference between usual tiredness and Hodgkin's tiredness. It will creep on you over time but these are your warning signs...
*finding you are falling off sleep very early in the evening most nights
*finding you can sleep for hours in the day
*struggling to get up in the morning, or lying in for long periods on days at home
*difficulty sleeping at night, maybe due to itching
I am naturally an early riser, usually have lots of energy and prefer to be busy. When I had Hodgkin's I struggled to wake, I could easily lie in bed on a Sunday until dinnertime, and most nights I could be asleep by 6pm, then find it difficult to go to sleep at bedtime.
Another few things that seem to come with Hodgkin's are again mundane symptoms that can be passed off as viral or allergy based. The important thing here is that if these problems persist for long periods, start suddenly or get worse ask for it to be looked into. I battled these 'common' problems for 12 months and they were a sign of the cancer.
*constant sinus problems, extremely blocked nose, loss of sense of smell, constantly feeling like you have a sinus infection
*Ear problems. Feeling like ears are blocked, or painful.
*Sore throat that would regularly come and go
*Sore tongue that would come and go
*Re-occurring throat and chest problems or coughs and colds
*Itchy skin, which intensifies to extreme itching all over
*Swollen, puffy eyes. Usually in the morning and that itch at night
*Muscle aches and pains
I went the doctors on a number of occasions with all these but I was told I didn't have any sign of ear infections, that sinus infections could take weeks to go and that the other problems were allergies. However it never fixed my problem as I still had the pain. I knew it wasn't right and should of pushed for blood tests and further investigation, don't be afraid to do this if you are hitting a brick wall. They could be common symptoms but they could be something else.
The main symptom of Hodgkin's Lymphoma is usually a hard, painless swelling, usually in one of the lymph nodes. However this symptom came later for me, so if your are experiencing the other things I've mentioned I recommend getting it checked early, don't wait to see if any glands come up.
There were other things I noticed, more so towards been diagnosed, so as the cancer was progressing.
*Itchy feet, extremely itchy! Mostly at night, but could start anything from around teatime.
*Feeling the cold far more than usual
*Feeling hot more than usual, mostly at night.
*Lack of energy
*Irritable, lacking concentration and general feeling of can't be bothered by anything
I have never had itchy feet before but I put this down to eczema, it wasn't this is a classic Lymphoma symptom. I felt more sensitive to cold for quite a few months before diagnosis in the June, I spent the winter before that permanently attached to a hot water bottle when at home. Then I was far more heat sensitive the closer it came to been diagnosed. I am someone who doesn't usually sweat (nice topic ay), but I don't, I rarely sweat and I don't often feel over sensitive to cold weather so I must stay at quite and even body temperature. However with Hodgkin's, I did feel hot and sweated quite easily. Night Sweats are a common symptom of Hodgkin's and I'm sure I would of had these, had I of left it longer. I had no energy, looking back I had no energy at all really, I just couldn't be bothered, a few days before going to the doctor's I couldn't even be bothered walk to the top of the garden.
All these things built up and were starting to show before the lumps came, my lumps came first on the right side of my collarbone (in the little dip) then the left. My Hodgkin's started as a mass in the chest, which I had probably had for about 12 months before diagnosis. It grew slowly as it was positioned in the chest cavity so has the room to grow quite big before it causes any problems. The mass getting bigger was what led to my sinus, throat and ear problems as it was squeezing my airways as it grew. I also started to notice some indigestion which I had never had before and rarely finished a meal. As it was on the right side as it got to about 12 cm it had pushed everything up so this area was very lumpy and swollen, my veins on my chest were also very noticeable.
Basically, its just about knowing your body, which we all do, sometimes we just may choose to turn a blind eye and hope it will go away, either through fear or the inconvenience of been ill, life is busy and fast paced, none of us want to be stopped in our tracks. But if you keep having a nagging feeling that something isn't right, are often thinking "I don't usually get this" or "I've never had that before", are tired but no matter how much you sleep never feel refreshed or just feel drained of energy, get it checked! It may be nothing, but if it is something the quicker its found the less treatment you may need. Had I have pursued it sooner I may not of been stage 2, the mass wouldn't of been so big probably meaning I would of only needed 6 chemo treatments rather than 12. But if like me, you have been feeling not right for some time don't worry as my consultant said time isn't a big problem with this cancer, but still don't put it off any longer. Also don't take note of any scaremongering you may read, my consultant has never said to me that I am more likely to get another form of cancer later in life and my monthly cycle continued as normal throughout so they never thought this was an issue. As my consultant told me, you get treated, then you get on with your life. So do just that, get treated and get on with life, don't worry what might happen, any of us could get hit by a bus tomorrow (no morbid thoughts intended just a reality check).
Now I'm in Remission, I just see it that I've got a good check on my general health for 5 years, not counting down the years until I've done my 5 years remission, that's wishing my life away and I'd rather enjoy every minute than worry about what if. I'll repeat what I said earlier Hodgkin's Lymphoma is treatable, highly curable. It is a manageable road to recovery and you will be there before you know it xxxx
Categories: Cancer and Me