Convinced it was a pulled muscle in my chest, just by my collar bone… “No can’t believe it’s still there, il go when I get home”.
July 2014, watching a movie at home, a pain I’d never experienced before shot through my body. My face went pale, I struggled to move. I couldn’t concentrate on anything but the pain, I retreated to my bed- must have been the way I was sitting on the couch, I thought.
After endless tossing and turning, to ease the pain in certain positions… I woke drenched in sweat… This was to become a very frequent accurance.
Out of nowhere I would become stricken with pain mainly down my left side. It originally happened about once a month, now it was twice a week. I knew deep down this wasn’t a pulled muscle or trapped nerve… I was afraid to go to the doctor because then I knew the wheels would be in motion… This, whatever “this” was, would be real.
I needed my mam, I casually went home one evening, “what’s for dinner? I’m going to stay here tonight altogether, oh mam when you get a chance will you ring the doctor an make an appointment for me for tomorrow?”… The obvious questions ensued, typical Irish mammy worrying about everything, “oh it’s to do with work, blood test or something like that, nothing major mam”.
My doctors appointment was 3pm and by 4pm I was up in the hospital waiting room. It was nearing the end of September, sitting in work, I found myself touching the lump and holding my breath, my eyes glazing over whatever was in there sight. This is going to be bad.
My phone rang, “Noelle can you come in to me today?”, my doctor tried to sound relaxed and not panicked. “I’m in work now, I can try get a half day Friday and pop up to you!”…”No Noelle I need to speak with you today”.
I rang my sister, she met me at the doctors, I knew I couldn’t go in there alone. We sat, I answered alot of questions, I’d lost weight, the night sweats, the pain at night that was becoming more regular. I showed her the lump on my collar bone, it wasn’t sore. She mentioned cancer… She mentioned a lot of things, I can’t remember what any of them were because all I heard was Cancer. But said a biopsy would tell a lot more.
October 2nd 2014, the day my world changed. I woke up in a ward, gowned up in a bed with metal bars. A buzz light year balloon over my bedside locker, an angel pendant and a teddy bear… No I wasn’t in the children’s ward, that’s probably where I should have been, I never needed minding more. My friends had come to visit me the night before, you would never think I was soon going to be turning 30!
I had my biopsy and my PET scan… I had been rolled around the hospital all day, drowsy from all the drugs. I was wheeled back in to the ward eventually around 4pm… I saw the gap where my bed was about to be manuvoured back in to, I saw the empty chair… Then my sister, my eyes filled the minute I saw a familiar face… Chin trembling, eyes now over flowing I managed to get the words out, “I want to go home”.
A strange few days followed, the results would be in on Thursday October 7th, I was to expect a call around 12pm… I got the call, a woman on the other end told me I had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer.
Much of that day is blurry, I told my family, they cried, I cried.
I told my friends, they were upset but being positive in front of me… I knew they were terrified too.
Having met with a specialist it turned out it was in my neck and chest, the tumor in my chest was up against my heart and lung. It was the size of a fist and had broken through my chest cavity.
October 21st 2014, my first chemo.
Never has a lazy boy reclining chair been more uncomfortable. Sweaty palms, my eyes scanned every inch of the room, of the people, of the strange tubes going in to these people.
Would I feel sick straight away? Do I just sit here an leave this poison go in to me? – just two of the millions of thoughts running through my mind.
My treatment would take a full day, I was getting 4 drugs, one of which takes over 2hrs by drip… So I watched, as it dripped slowly in to me… Never had my future been so unknown to me.
There was a red drug that was being injected into me, this was the one I would fear most, as i learned this was the one that would take away my hair. So every second Tuesday I would watch as this red stuff entered my body… But that’s just it, it wasn’t MY body anymore.
November 29th 2014, I had a joint 30th Birthday party with my best friend, we had talked about this since we were in school together. My family were worried, didn’t think I would able for it, and with my immune system so low it was dangerous to be in large crowds… I talked to God, Buddha or whoever it was would let me do this one thing… I wanted to celebrate my 30th Birthday with my family and friends… And with hair. After that I’d take whatever comes at me… I just wanted to be the old me one last time.
My hair and my body held it together on the night, I celebrated my 30years on this earth with my amazing family and friends.
2 weeks later I had to shave my head. Waking up and seeing my hair on my pillow became unbearable, I’d cry, not because I was surprised, but because it wasn’t a dream.
March 24th 2015, my last chemo.
After a crazy journey, where I met the braviest of people… It was time to hang up my drip.
I walked down the corridor, a corridor I’d walked so many times, I stopped at the end and looked back, the paintings on the walls, the blue-ish Lino on the floor that for some reason I constantly tripped over… And that sign on the wall, ‘The Dunmanway Day Unit’… “Let’s hope I never see you again”, I whispered.
More tests and scans followed, then I started radiotherapy, every day for 3 weeks… Lying in this huge machine as the lazor penetrates my body. Strapped to a table, eyes closed, unaware of what is going on around me or even inside me.
May 2015, I finish all treatments.
Having met with specialists, nurses and doctors on countless occasions, it was decided we would give my body a break now an let all the treatment take effect and do the final PET scan in 8/10 weeks.
As the time went on I began to look like me again. When I looked in the mirror my eyes no longer seemed empty. My eye lashes and brows slowly started to grow back. It’s kind of only now that you think of everything that has happened, all along you are so pre-occupied with hospital appointments and just getting through to the nxt session.
August 20th 2015, 5.25pm… I sat in the all too familiar room, “the doctor will be with you shortly”, the nurse could see I was scared. It wasn’t just me, my family and friends were waiting by their phones… How could I tell my mam and dad it didn’t work, their little girl was still sick, how could they go through all that again… How could I go through all that again!
“We’ve good news Noelle, the treatment worked. The cancer is inactive”.
I stared at him, waiting for a but or just not believing… I was afraid to believe it was gone- had I done it??
“So the cancer it’s not inside me anymore?? Has it stopped now??”, I looked at him, my mouth like sandpaper… “You are cancer free Noelle”… He looked at me, a cheeky smile… I saw a warmth in his eyes. I turned to face my sister, we hugged eachother tightly.
We walked out as if on clouds. It was only when I was outside and I rang my dad that it sunk in… “Dad? I’m ok, it’s gone. The cancer, it’s gone dad”. I was barely able to get the words out through the tears.
The relief I felt was unimaginable, I hadn’t realised its extent until it was finally lifted.
So now I’m officially in remission. Il have regular check ups to keep an eye on things incase it comes back… But right now I’m alive. I’m one of the lucky ones.
#hodgkinslymphoma #hodgkinsdisease #cancerfree