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Hodgkin's lymphoma warning

From Mrs Jill Smith

In 1976 I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease (now called Hodgkin’s lymphoma) it was in most of my lymph glands. I was 20. I really don't think I realised how ill I was.

I had my spleen removed, they took my gall bladder at the same time and I was left with a horrendous 12 inch scar. I went on to have 6 months of chemo and then radiotherapy every day for 6 weeks. Most of this time I carried on working, in fact on the days I was had radiotherapy I would walk to the hospital for 8.30am, have my treatment and then go to work - I was not going to let this take over my life and within a year I was in total remission.

I met my husband at the beginning of 1977 and we got married in 1980. We had been told I would never have children but in 1984 (after a short course of drugs for infertility) my daughter Michelle was born and in 1986 my daughter Danielle was born. Sadly my mum had died in January 1984 from breast cancer.

My life went on as normal I never even considered the risk of getting cancer again and never let it stop me doing anything. Check ups had stopped many years ago and it was many years after removal of my spleen, when we changed doctors, that I was put on antibiotics for a reduced immune system. I had overactive thyroid, an ulcer and in 1996 I had a lump in my neck (panic) but it wasn't cancer. My right thyroid gland was removed now I had an underactive thyroid. In 1994 I had been diagnosed with a heart murmur although I had not been told and only found out very recently. I never really connected any of these illnesses to my cancer it genuinely never crossed my mind.

In 2004 I had a letter from Bristol Oncology asking if I would like to go and discuss the side effects of radiotherapy for Hodgkin’s disease. I did go and was given a warning about the possibility of breast cancer in patients who had radiotherapy for Hodgkin’s at a young age. I was given a check up there and then for breast cancer. I believe they did mention lung cancer and heart problems but these were not brought to the forefront. The focus was on breast cancer. As my mother had died of breast cancer, at only 57, obviously I was concerned and an early mammogram was arranged. This came back all clear.

Over the years I had noticed I was slightly short of breath but this was very mild and I put it down to lack of exercise, lifestyle etc., vowing to join a gym. In 2005 my husband died suddenly from a heart attack at the age of 52. 4 months later Feb 2006 I noticed a swelling in my neck and my breathlessness was worse. I went to the doctors who didn't seem to think it was anything to worry about but did send me for an ultrasound scan on my neck which apparently didn't show anything abnormal. A month or so later I went back to the doctor convinced something was wrong and she arranged for an appointment with an ENT specialist, this took 3 months. He couldn't pinpoint anything but arranged a MRI scan on my neck within 2 weeks, whilst there the radiologist wanted me to have CT scan immediately.

In October 2006 almost a year to the date of my husband's death I was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. I had never smoked, no-one in my house had smoked!!

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Updated: 28 September 2009