Student nurse’s terror as lump on neck diagnosed as blood cancer
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A student nurse has shared how her life was turned upside down after a small lump on her lympth nodes turned out to be stage four cancer. It was discovered that the cancer had spread, despite the fact that she had no other symptoms.
According to EdingburghLive, Alix Maitland, 20, was in her second year at Edinburgh Napier University and had been working hard on 12-hour shifts on the wards as a student nurse.
Sadly she had to take a leave of absence after a small lump on the side of her neck turned out to be Hodgin Lymopha which had spread to her neck, chest, bones, and spleen forcing her to undertake gruelling chemotherapy immediately.
The condition is a type of cancer that develops in the lymphatic system, a network of vessels and glands spread throughout your body.
Following the terrifying diagnosis, the determined and inspiring 20-year-old has donated her hair to the little Princess Trust, raising more than £5000 for charity and shared her story to help others.
“I’m currently in my second year studying nursing at Edinburgh Napier and had to cut my placement short due to scans and other stuff.
“I actually only had swollen lymph nodes in my neck however I’d always had a swollen gland in the side of my neck since I was a child that would swell if I was under the weather so I never ever thought to get it checked again. It wasn’t until I felt another like pea-sized node in a different area of my neck that I got it checked but I never had any additional symptoms other than swollen nodes though.
“On August 29 I saw the GP, who told me it was muscle strain but he took a full blood count, he chased my bloods up on the same day due to high anxiety levels but they came back perfectly normal.”
The GP began to run extra tests to eliminate the chance of anything more serious but during the whole process leading to her diagnosis, Alix said she was never told to prepare for the worst. She explained: “Ten days later he put me through as an urgent referral to ENT purely because my anxiety was so bad and I wanted it checked further.
“I saw an ENT consultant, he examined me and said he genuinely didn’t think it was anything to worry about. He said some people have prominent and reactive nodes and because I’m a slim, young female they were more noticeable.
“Again due to my anxiety he decided to order an ultrasound purely to relieve any stress. So I left quite upbeat as someone with loads of experience within that area of the body was so positive. Not once was I told to prepare for the worst.”
It wasn’t until Alix was asked to return to the hospital for further checks that she realised there could be something wrong. She continued: “On Friday, November 11, I received a phone call saying I had to attend a CT appointment which then sent me into meltdown as you do not just go for CTs to double check. This then allowed me from that point on to let my mind run wild, and I knew I had cancer all I needed was for them to tell me what kind it was as I’m not a doctor.
“On Monday, November 14, I then received another phone call saying I had to go for a PET scan, this cemented I had cancer. It was the following Tuesday I officially got diagnosed.”
When the student nurse went for further tests she was told the devastating news that she had stage four cancer that had spread across her body.
She explained: “On November 23, I went for a PFT (a test showing how well your lungs are functioning) on this day I met with my haemato-oncologist who told me that the cancer was stage 4 and was mostly in my neck, chest, spleen, and bones. This came as quite a shock because I felt so well doing things I would normally do, working 12.5 shifts as a student nurse alongside working in an ice rink as well. I couldn’t quite understand why it could be stage 4 as I was ‘well’.”
“On November 28, I went for my final scan which was an echocardiogram to check that my heart was strong enough to endure the treatment that was about to begin and on December 5 I received my first out of 12 rounds of chemotherapy. Chemo really did knock the life out of me, I was extremely sick despite taking anti-sickness medication and also had many areas of my body aching for days. It drains you of almost all your energy so you do spend the majority of the time sleeping.
“I get chemo every second Monday so the second week has been a lot better I’ve been up and about and have met up with friends which has been good.”
Alix has tried to stay positive throughout the experience: “It’s pretty difficult adjusting for sure, I’ve cut 15 inches off my hair in the hopes that when I lose my hair it doesn’t shock me as much. I donated the hair to the Little Princess Trust as it was perfectly good hair and can help improve someone else’s confidence in difficult times and have a JustGiving page raising money for Lymphoma Action.
“It’s hard when you see people moaning about insignificant things like their nail technician cancelling an appointment when you’ve just been hit with that kind of life-changing news. However, I need to remember that a few months ago those insignificant things were what I thought were massive problems as well. You really do not realise what is important in life until it is compromised. It has definitely changed me as a person and will continue to do so throughout this journey.
“You are told to live as normal as you can, see your friends etc. Going into the outside world is not as carefree as it used to be, it has been quite frightening if I’m honest. I am constantly on edge about catching infections as my immune system is pretty much non-existent just now due to chemotherapy so the smallest of infections could hospitalise me which I really do not want.
“I’ve had to put uni on hold, for the time being, I’m finding it hard to be the patient after being on the other side of care for so long. With working in an ice rink and having to skate I’ve had to stop working for the time being as well as my body just can’t cope with too much strenuous exercise.”
Finally the 20-year-old reflected on being delivered such life-changing news at such a young age.
She said: “When you’re diagnosed it doesn’t seem real. It’s definitely been hard and many tears have been shed but at the end of the day, you need to pick yourself up and fight.
“You obviously don’t want to die at any age never mind being so young with my whole life ahead of me, I gave myself time to cry and then my whole mindset changed.
“I am definitely taking each day as it comes but keeping in mind that there is light at the end of a very long tunnel. They do say “if you don’t laugh you’ll greet” and I honestly believe there is no truer saying.”
You can find out more about Alix’s story and donate to the fundraising page here.
You can also find support for any topics raised in this article here.
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