Mum, grandma and former Medical Secretary Margaret didn’t experience any pain before her cancer diagnosis but still booked an appointment with her GP. Here, Margaret describes her cancer journey and highlights the importance of noticing whether a symptom is ‘normal’ for you.
My cancer diagnosis came as a shock. I felt well. I didn’t have a sore throat or any pain in my mouth, and I wasn’t experiencing any problems swallowing. The only thing different was that I felt like I had a hair in my mouth and needed to swallow more often. The symptom was persistent, so after a couple of months, I used a mirror to look into my throat, where I saw what looked like a tiny eye or shiny circle, and immediately booked an appointment with my GP.
My GP referred me to a consultant who, within 10 days, organised for me to attend the hospital as a day case and have the tonsil removed. Another 10 days after that, I saw the consultant again to receive the results of a biopsy on the tonsil. The consultant informed me it was cancer, more specifically, a lymphoma. My official diagnosis was a first-grade non-Hodgkin large cell lymphoma that had been caught early.
A couple of weeks later, I went for chemotherapy. In the end, I only had two sessions of the chemo, as it made me feel really unwell, and the results proved another session wouldn’t benefit me that much. Instead, I had radiotherapy a few weeks later.
Since my cancer diagnosis, I’ve tried to remain positive and keep looking forward. My role model has been my younger sister, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer six months before my own diagnosis. Like me, she didn’t have many symptoms – only an itch for a week or so. She has since had an operation and is now doing well.
I lost a lot of weight because of my tonsillectomy, chemo, and radiotherapy, and have experienced other side-effects such as a sore throat, mouth, and neck. Most of my other side effects have disappeared. I’m slowly getting back to a healthy weight and have been drinking nutritional supplement milkshakes to help. I began to experience extreme tiredness after undergoing x-rays, blood tests, a colonoscopy, and taking steroids to treat a cough I’ve had since my chemotherapy. I’ve stayed in touch with my Macmillan nurse, a dietitian and my GP practice nurse throughout everything.
I have COPD and diabetes, which have both made me feel weak, but since beginning to take long daily walks on the seafront, I’ve felt so much better. I still have the cough, but I’m using medication and a Flutter to manage it. I’m also having B12 injections and taking iron tablets to reduce my tiredness.
I have been continually checked on by health professionals, and the questions they asked ensured I informed them of anything and everything that was not normal to me. They never made me feel guilty about asking questions or getting in contact a lot. Everyone was helpful and caring. They let nothing go unchecked, which is what revealed my B12 deficiency – it may have gone unnoticed for some time otherwise.
My advice to others in my position would be to stay positive and see the future as something to look forward to – always keep the little things in mind. You can’t expect every day to be good so listen to your body. If you need to sit down or sleep – do so.
Always remember to talk to your GP about any problems or symptoms concerning you and get help when you need it!
If you’re experiencing a persistent ache or pain, unexplained weight loss, or an unusual lump. Speak to your GP. Remember, if it’s persistent, unexplained, or unusual for you, it’s important to get it checked.