Cancer category: Lymphomas
Cancer type: Hodgkin’s disease
Evie Vocking was 16 when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of your immune system. She underwent chemptherapy and fortunately her treatment was successful. She's excited her hair is quickly growing back.
It all began for Evie when she found 3 small lumps in her neck:
"I’d felt quite unwell for 2 weeks but only imagined it to be the common cold. When I told my parents about the lumps, we all assumed they’d be swollen glands from my sore throat. I was worried though so I went to the doctors the next day, who reassured me that it was just swelling so i went home feeling a lot more positive."
But the lumps didn't go away:
"A month or so later the lumps were still there so my mum took me back to the doctors. This time they were slightly more concerned and referred me to an ear, nose and throat specialist for a chest x-ray and CT scan. This was the day before my fantastic holiday to Barbados, but the day I returned wasn’t quite so fantastic. There were tonnes of letters from the hospital having booked me an appointment at the Royal Marsden. Upon researching the hospital, I started to realise what was going on, but remained in denial that it was anything serious."
"I was in complete shock"
"I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma stage 2 A, meaning it had affected the lymph nodes in my neck and my chest. I was in complete shock, as were my parents, and when I was told I would have to receive chemotherapy, I immediately knew this would mean hair loss. I was absolutely distraught and it was the only thing I could think about. I didn’t want to hear anything else the consultant had to say so I rushed out of the room. That same day I went to college to see my friends and they we’re extremely sympathetic and none of us knew what to do with ourselves. I soon went into a state of depression and had the operation to fit my Portacath and have a neck biopsy. Although I knew the chemotherapy would kill the cancer, I was dreading every day that lead closer to treatment."
“I began to speak to a few other teenagers"
When Evie started her chemotherapy treatment at the Royal Marsden Hospital she was surprised by how welcoming our unit is.
"It was very friendly looking and I thought it was a great idea to have a separate area for teenagers. Despite my nerves of not knowing what to expect, I felt rather relaxed and began to speak to a few other teenagers about their experiences. My treatment lasted 3 months and this wasn’t long considering the half a year we were first told it’d be, but it felt like a lifetime to me.
"Before hair loss began I was told I would be able to receive a wig from the Little Princess Trust. I was extremely grateful and I took a trip to Brighton to pick one. I was still very upset and nervous about losing my hair but this was the next best option for me. I was then told I could have it cut by the famous and talented hairdresser Trevor Sorbie, at his very own salon! He runs a trust called ‘My New Hair’ and he cut it beautifully, he made me feel so much more confident."
"There were good days, bad days and many rough patches"
Evie found that talking to others who had been through a similar experience helped her stay happe, “I found that others who had not experienced it wouldn’t quite understand." And it was positivity and support that got her through:
"I tried very hard to keep a positive state of mind throughout treatment. I was off college so I missed my friends, however I kept in touch with many of them over Facebook and my phone. Everyone was so supportive, and my boyfriend at the time would come along to the hospital with me. It felt great to have such great support from friends, family, and the hospital, and despite how I felt physically, it helped me to feel better mentally. There were good days, bad days and many rough patches but what I found would work for me was to plan what I wanted to do when I was better (which in my case was throw a party). It gave me something to look forward to and something to talk about with my friends."
"I have learnt to appreciate life so much more"
Fortunately the treament was successful:
"I was told my cancer had gone in January and it felt like the best day of my life. I went out for a meal with friends to celebrate, we were all so happy and my family were ecstatic. From that day onwards I have always worn my wig, and anyone who didn’t know what I had been through would never know it wasn’t my real hair! I understand that different things suit different people but I wanted to look how I looked before chemotherapy, so people wouldn’t treat me differently. My natural hair is growing very fast now and is a couple of inches long. I was so excited to find it had started growing and I’ve even made a picture timeline of the growth process.
"Overall, my experience was very very tough but I have learnt to appreciate life so much more. I used to be a huge worrier but now I take each day in my stride and have realised that worrying doesn’t help a situation, it will only make it worse. In April I went to the Royal Albert Hall to watch and meet Jessie J. It was honestly one of the best days of my life all thanks to Teenage Cancer Trust. You have helped me so much and I am extremely grateful to the charity for creating such a thoughtful trust and helping teenagers with cancer feel a lot more confident."