I thought swollen glands were down to flu – then I discovered I had lymphoma (From Bournemouth Echo)
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I thought swollen glands were down to flu – then I discovered I had lymphoma
ALTHOUGH it is the fifth most common cancer in the UK, many people don’t know anything about lymphoma. To mark Lymphatic Cancer Awareness Week, one Dorset mum, who is currently in remission from the condition, agreed to share her story.
WHEN Kerry Levens noticed that the glands in her neck were still swollen from a bout of flu, she went to see her doctor.
Kerry, now 42, explains: “I’d had a bad bout of flu at the end of 2010 but weeks later my glands were still swollen. I went to the doctor a few times and had some blood tests but nothing showed up initially.
“It was only when I went for a scan some months later that I was diagnosed with grade four follicular lymphoma.”
Kerry, who lives in Blandford, says she was in denial at first and kept thinking there must be some mistake.
“The doctors think I probably had it for at least two or three years before I was diagnosed,” Kerry adds. “Looking back I did lack energy but I just thought I was a bit of a lazy monkey!”
There are more than 50 different types of lymphatic cancer. Kerry was diagnosed with a type of advanced stage, low-grade non Hodgkin lymphoma which is not always active but rarely goes away completely.
Doctors usually aim to control, rather than cure it. People with this type of lymphoma often go for months or even years at a time when they feel well and don’t need any treatment.
After eight rounds of chemotherapy and treatment with an antibody drug, Kerry did go into remission. But in August 2012 she was re-diagnosed and had to have stem cell treatment.
“I’m now in remission again but you do get the odd day when you worry that it has come back. I know that in my case it will come back – I just don’t know when.
“It could be next month or it could be in years to come, but you can’t dwell on it, you just have to live your life. I now have far more energy than I had before.”
Every three months Kerry, who works part-time as a catering assistant, goes to hospital for treatment with an antibody drug.
She adds: “I do want to help raise awareness because although it is the fifth most common cancer so many people haven’t heard of it.”
Sally Penrose, chief executive of the Lymphoma Association, agreed. “Many people haven’t heard of it until they or a loved one are diagnosed,” she said.
“We are trying to change this, so that people will go to their GP straightaway if they experience any lymphoma symptoms over a period of time.’ The most common symptom is a painless lump or swelling, often in the neck, armpit or groin.
- Lymphatic cancer can occur in both men and women at any age, but is most common in people over 55. It is also the most frequently diagnosed cancer in the under-30s.
More than 14,000 people are newly diagnosed every year and more than 75,000 people in the UK are living with lymphoma. If you have been affected by lymphoma and want more information, visit lymphomas.org.uk or call the Lymphoma Association on Freephone 0808 808 5555.
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