Yasmin had just started her first job as a primary school teacher when she began to experience neck and back pain. She ignored her discomfort, but when she woke up with a lump on her neck she realised something was seriously wrong.

Here Yasmin describes being diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma and what her treatment involved.

 “I just ignored the pain and tiredness and kept coming up with excuses about why it was happening. My job was stressful and I was convinced that was why I was feeling so tired.

The lump on my neck was the size of a tennis ball. I couldn’t believe that it could have grown so fast. I made an appointment with my doctor, but he just gave me antibiotics and didn’t listen to my concerns. I returned a few days later because I’d felt a lump on my chest and he actually laughed at me and asked how I expected the antibiotics to work so quickly. He put me down and made me feel stupid which I still feel bad about.

 I went to another doctor who agreed to send me for a cancer scan. They had to operate to take a biopsy from my lump and it was a really anxious time while I was waiting for the results.

Finding out I had Hodgkin lymphoma was almost a relief as the uncertainty was over. I was obviously really upset at first and spent most of that first day crying. But after that, I decided that I had to take steps to deal with what was to come.

I had really thick curly hair and the next day a friend of mine who is a barber shaved lots of it off. Everyone thought I’d be worried about losing my hair, but actually that never bothered me. The scariest thing for me was the thought of all those needles during chemotherapy.

The chemotherapy I was having has a low risk of causing infertility, but I had the option of freezing my eggs. The problem was that I had to wait three weeks to do that or I could just start my treatment straight away. I felt I couldn’t wait, I had to get started.

At the beginning, the chemotherapy took ages. I’d start at 9am and it wouldn’t finish until about 5.30pm. The last drug they give you actually constricts your veins and gives you this burning sensation. They sometimes have to dilute it, which takes even longer.

After the third chemo session is became harder to find my vein so I had a Picc line put in [a tube which is inserted into a vein on an arm, leg or neck to make long term treatments more comfortable] which speeded things up and helped me with my fear of needles which was really upsetting me.

I had 12 sessions of chemotherapy, once every fortnight. I kept a chart of my chemo sessions in my bedroom and would cross them off and keep reminding myself that I only had a few more to go. I didn’t vomit, but I did feel really dizzy all the time and spent a lot of time in bed. I didn’t want to do much.

My work was really supportive when I had to stop, but as I hadn’t been there very long I only got half pay, so had to apply to the government for a Personal Independence Payment. I also received a grant of £300 from Leukaemia UK’s Helping Hand Fund which I’m really grateful for as it helped me to be able to afford to pay for the taxis to and from my appointments.

There are times when you’ve just had enough and it’s hard to stay positive. You just don’t want to see another nurse - and the smell of the hospital made me feel sick. Now when I smell the saline that my contact lenses are in it reminds me of my chemo sessions.

For me, one of the worst things was that I put on a lot of weight and felt very bloated from the steroids. I wasn’t able to do much exercise and my metabolism seemed to slow down. It was really frustrating as I’d look in the mirror and not see myself. I felt it was out of my control.

It can get annoying when people tell you to “stay strong”, but if anyone was to ask my advice about dealing with a Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis, I’d say keep busy, keep your mind active and try to stay positive, because if you look at things negatively you can get to a dark place very quickly.

I love art, so I bought some water colours which really helped me mentally during my treatment. Everyone’s got something they want to do but haven’t got the time to do it, so this is the time to try it.

My last chemo session was in October 2017. It feels so good to be through that. I feel a real sense of freedom and am just focusing now on what I can do to keep myself well and busy.

I try not to think about whether the cancer will come back or not as that is something I can’t control. I believe that what will be, will be and I’m concentrating on maintaining a healthy lifestyle and getting back to my normal self again."

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