Erin hero

I thought my cancer symptoms were allergies

In the year leading up to her diagnosis, Erin mistook her cancer symptoms for asthma and allergies. She was eventually diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma and underwent treatment during the coronavirus pandemic.

When I was 16, I started getting very breathless and wheezy. My dad has asthma, so initially the doctors thought it was asthma or allergies. I’d also had an allergic reaction to watermelon in the summer and the blood test brought up something that indicated allergies, so it all added up.

I ran a lot and played football for a local team, so my fitness was always quite good. Football training stopped for a bit because of lockdown, but during one game I had to come off and take my inhaler, which wasn’t like me. My resting heart rate was getting to 120bpm and I was finding it hard to even walk up the stairs. I had to sit on the bed afterwards and I was exhausted. It was weird. 

A month later, I developed a lump in my neck, and I was told several times that I probably had a virus. I googled it and Google basically said: ‘You’ll die tomorrow’, so I tried to back away from that.

When it still didn’t go down, the doctors referred me to an Ear Nose and Throat clinic, where I had an ultrasound and biopsy. That confirmed that I had Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. I’d read a bit about cancer and the blood tests the year before had indicated signs of allergies or cancer so deep down I think I’d known that I had cancer.

Erin hospital

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Deep down I think I’d known that I had cancer

I’d heard stories of people who couldn’t have people with them when they had bad medical news during the pandemic, but as I’d only just turned 17 my mum could be with me. I was able to hold her hand and it was so much easier to have her there with me. We were still in lockdown and I couldn’t tell my friends in person, so I did it over FaceTime. It was really hard as they all wanted to hug me, and I wanted to be able to cry to them.

I was told that I’d have my chemo at the Teenage Cancer Trust unit at Southampton General Hospital, but that I could go to my nearby hospital - Queen Alexandra hospital in Portsmouth - to have things like blood tests and to have my Picc line flushed by Nikki, Teenage Cancer Trust’s Outreach Clinical Nurse Specialist. I met Nikki within days of my diagnosis, and it was nice to have that point of contact and to know we could turn to her when we needed to. 

Erin nurse

We quickly got to know her, she took the time to get to know us, and we are really close to her. I know that I can call her about anything and just knowing that she is there helps.

I was really up and down during treatment, and I didn’t know how I would do it – it was so hard. It was tough to think that I couldn’t do as much as I would like to be doing and that I couldn’t do the things my friends are able to do. Even during lockdown, my friends could go for walks, but I couldn’t because of my weakened immunity from chemotherapy. My friends are all really amazing and supportive though. They call me every week to see how I am, and they FaceTime me too. I’ve been sent lots of cards and lots of cake deliveries, which has helped.

Erin hospital

I am due to finish in mid-July. My friends want us to have lots of parties when I’m done, and my family and I hope to go abroad. I’m looking forward to playing football again when I can. In the meantime, I’m watching Arsenal with my stepdad. Teenage Cancer Trust runs lots of face-to-face events and they go to meals and concerts, so I am looking forward in joining in once COVID-19 has gone too.

Erin picc line

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