Alana O'Reilly

 

Learn more about Hodgkin lymphoma

 

Shortly before my 17th birthday, I discovered a lump on the right side of my neck. I noticed something wasn't right as the lump was only on one side of my neck and not the other. The next morning my mum and I went straight to the doctors, just to be on the safe side.

I began to get a little suspicious of something more sinister when my doctor ordered a blood test for me to be taken immediately. After getting the results of the blood test back and a subsequent needle biopsy on the lump, the doctor told us something didn't look right and that the results were hinting at possible 'lymphoma'.

After a spattering of tests and every other scan under the sun, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. At the time I had barely even heard of it, let alone knew what it was. All I'd heard about the disease was that 'Delta Goodrem had it'. Seeing my parents start to cry at the news gave me an indication of how serious it was.

A few weeks after discovering the lump my treatment started - 12 rounds of chemotherapy, once every two weeks for six months. My first treatment took around seven hours.

I was really inspired by a quote that one of my teachers told me when I was first diagnosed "only the strongest people are given these terrible things, because they're the ones that can beat them". I know this quote isn’t applicable to everyone with cancer and sadly this is not always the case, but it helped me.

Having support when you are diagnosed with cancer, during your treatment and when you are recovering is so important. My friends and family were with my every step of the way, but support came from unexpected places too. 

I was so nervous about going to school since I'd lost my hair. I'd announced to my year group in an assembly what was happening to me and they were all really supportive. I think it's safe to say I got around 200 hugs that day! My classmates made me a scrapbook full of letters and positive messages. They told me it was for times when I needed cheering up. I still have it to this day and it's one of my most prized possessions.

The nurses who looked after me were absolutely fantastic. They stayed by my side the whole time I was in hospital, held my hand and did everything they could to reduce the pain as much as possible. I gave my favourite nurse a card and chocolates on my final day of treatment, and we hugged and cried together. They were happy tears! 

Cancer Council also provided support during my treatment. Volunteers were always on hand in the hospital to provide information on specific topics, or just for a chat when I was feeling low. The Cancer Council website was also a place that I could go to get reliable information about my diagnosis.

I was diagnosed just as I as beginning year 12. They told me I could do my HSC over two years if I wanted, to lighten the load, but I kept it up and managed to finish all my exams with the rest of my class mates. I also got into my first preference for university as well to study a Bachelor of Nursing. I guess you could say that some beautiful people inspired me into the profession. My next goal is to get into medicine! 

This year I will be hosting my very first Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea. I am really looking forward to the planning and to hosting my friends for a delicious morning tea in my backyard. 

 

Learn more about Cancer Council's patient support services