Meet Zoe. Zoe is Albert’s Mummy and Sam’s wife.
Zoe is 29 and was diagnosed with a type of Hodgkins Lymphoma, last year.
Here is Zoe’s story in her own words.
It’s the 7thof April 2017. I’m sat in a packed waiting room with my newborn baby boy, Albert. This day would be the day that changed our world forever…
As soon as we walked into the room, I knew that we wouldn’t hear the words we wanted.
There were too many medical professionals there for this to ever end well. I’ll never forget those emotions that came flooding over me as soon as I heard those fateful words.
‘I’m so sorry, you have cancer.’
Panic, sadness, anger.
I didn’t for a second think ‘why me?’ My only concern was for my wonderful husband and our beautiful little boy. They didn’t deserve this; they didn’t deserve a wife or mummy with cancer.
I instantly felt a burden on them, and a burden to the rest of my family and friends.
How did I not know that I had cancer? What sort of cancer did I have? Could they treat me?
I had thousands of the questions going through my mind, as did my family and friends!
Throughout my pregnancy I had been having regular blood tests, which hadn’t shown anything suspect. I had however developed a terrible cough when I was 20 weeks pregnant, yet I was told it was just a symptom of pregnancy. As this was my first, I knew no better! I assumed the breathlessness, coughing, wheezing and chest pains were normal.
As soon as Albert was born and he was put on me for that first skin to skin contact, I felt like a fully-grown man had just sat on my chest. I couldn’t breathe, and I was having very sharp shooting pains radiating from my upper chest. It wasn’t for another three weeks that I then felt the need to go to the out of hours doctor with a rash that covered me from head to toe. As I was breastfeeding I wanted to be sure that whatever it was it wouldn’t make Albert ill. Three doctors told me I was fine, for me it was lucky number 4!
I walked into the local out of hours GP, and almost instantly when I showed him an enlarged lump on my collar bone, he said ‘I’m pretty sure this is Lymphoma’. He rang the ENT registrar at my local hospital and pleaded with her to see me urgently. I was still of the thinking that it was all being blown out of proportion… What was Lymphoma anyway?
The following weeks were a whirlwind. I had a needle biopsy, then full removal of the lump and a PET scan. The time between my referral and starting chemo was a mere 2 weeks and 2 days.
The most devastating blow was having to give up breastfeeding my little boy, it was truly more painful than even my diagnosis.
We had got off to a flying start, we both took to it so naturally and I loved being able to nurse him. I had nothing against formula feeding, I just knew that I’d like this to be our path. I vividly remember sitting in another room crying, while my mum gave him his first bottle. I hated my body, why was it doing this to me? To my son? I had felt so proud having gone through a rough pregnancy and labour, and now I didn’t trust it, not one bit. Which is a very strange phenomenon!
My full diagnosis was Hodgkin’s Lymphoma nodular sclerosis stage 2. I underwent 6 months of gruelling fortnightly chemo called ABVD. My infusions would last between 4-5 hours, each one causing my body to react differently. My mum was there for every treatment, which as a mother must have been very difficult. Anxiety and fear would fill my body on ‘chemo Tuesday’, as I’d call it, I would take a sedative just to get through the hospital door!
There is a world I never really appreciated, that’s the world of Oncology. The consultants work their magic, and make the decisions, however the true unsung heroes are the oncology nurses. Day in, day out they help cancer patients in so many ways. They don’t just administer extremely toxic medicine. They listen, they support and they speak to you. The most important and touching thing they ever did was to recognise ME. Going through the losing of my hair and becoming increasingly pale and ill is hard to witness from anyone looking in, however for someone to approach me, say my name and ask how Albert is, it just meant so much. If any nurses are reading this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I am pleased and extremely grateful to now be in remission. I am monitored every 3 months by my consultant, which is always terribly nerve wracking. I’m currently going through testing for a possible relapse, which is very difficult to come to terms with. I’ve decided to stick with the mindset of ‘only worry, when they tell you to worry’.
Blood cancer is not in my family’s medical history. I’d never really been made aware of blood cancer until my diagnosis. However, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a commonly diagnosed cancer in the under 30’s age group. There is currently 240,000 people living with blood cancer in the UK. It’s also the 3rdbiggest cancer killer!
Some blood cancer patients will require a Stem Cell transplant, or bone marrow transplant as they are also called. If I do unfortunately relapse this will be my next treatment step. Donors for the DKMS register are needed, you may never be called upon, but please know that when you are, you will be saving someone’s life!
Life won’t ever be the same again, and that’s ok. I appreciate life so much more, I was always very confident and forthright about life. I had huge plans, and although I can still make those plans, they are very much based on the here and now. Making memories with loved ones and treasuring each second that I get to enjoy my life.
Thankyou Zoe – I can’t imagine how you must have felt after just having Albert, to be told you have cancer. You are amazing. Your family must be so proud of you .
Thankyou so much for sharing your story xxxxx
If you would like to contact Zoe, you can find her on Instagram @notjustafarmerswife
And if you are reading this and haven’t done so already, and you are able to, please please get on to the stem cell register, we need you.
Thankyou for reading
If you would like to share your story, please get in touch – whether your are a patient, a survivor, a partner, a nurse, I’d love to hear from you.
Email me firstname.lastname@example.org – and useThicker Than Water & your name in the subject heading.