I was sat in the ENT department waiting room, dreading hearing my name being called. It all began a month earlier. I had just arrived back home from a long overdue honeymoon. I was well rested and eager to get back to my dream job, which I had not long started. This is when I noticed several lymph nodes on my neck began to swell. I went to see my doctor who urgently referred me to a specialist. After many tests and biopsies, I was awaiting the results.
My name was finally called, my husband and I were escorted into the specialist’s office. We sat down and the doctor said, “There’s no good way for me to tell you, I’m really sorry but you have Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Do you know what that is Kate?” I nodded. I had watched a few people go through this horrid disease at a similar age to mine. “It’s a cancer of the Lymphatic System.” I replied. I looked over at my husband, his eyes were wide. We both felt like we had just been hit by a bus. I didn’t cry until we left the doctor’s office. I was trying to process it all in my head; how could this happen.
I was 26, healthy, happy, fit, no history of cancer in my family. Why was this happening. Was this it? I have two young children, are they even going to remember me?
How bad is it? Has it spread to my organs, or my bones? I spent most the journey home asking why, and how.
I felt out of control. To confirm the stage and the treatment plan it could take a month. I could not go through feeling this broken for another month. I decided to take control! I believe that everything happens for a reason, so I started thinking back to some memory or experience that would help me here.
I finally knew why had taken all those nutritional advisor courses. I had done some work in the nutrition field and had studies many cases where dietary change had cured people of certain illnesses. I knew all about the foods I should and shouldn’t be eat. My diet was something I could control. I knew that although curing cancer with diet alone is almost unheard of, if I use my knowledge alongside chemotherapy, I would surely be improving my odds of beating cancer.
Instead of going home we went to the local supermarket and started filling the trolley full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and anything plant based. Completely giving up meat, and dairy for the most part. I began researching about anti-cancer diets, superfoods and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, because I knew that knowledge was power. The best way to win the war is to know your enemy and its plans.
I began chemotherapy on 26th October. My treatment plan was set for 6 cycles, that’s 12 chemo sessions, each two week apart. That amounted to 6 months of going through chemotherapy.
Now I am a person whose glass is always half full even if there is nothing left in the glass. But cancer and treatment has really tested my optimism. But I have learnt to deal with many of the ‘glamorous’ side effect that chemotherapy has brought:
- Establish a routine – Take the first cycle to familiarise yourself with how you feel and on which day this starts and end. Keep a journal of what you eat, roughly when and what medication you take. Although the time scale and intensity of the side effect can be different after each treatment, overall there will be a pattern. For me the worst is the bone pain which begins on day four or five.
- The 6 P’s – Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance – It’s a saying that the British army like to drill into the recruits from the very beginning. I find it very fitting for most things in life. Having established a routine, prepare accordingly. If you know you get constipated, take some medicines to prevent this. If you get a sore mouth on day two, start gargling that mouthwash.
- Drink Water and Eat Plant Based – Water will help flush toxins and drugs out of the system, while plant based nutrition is the most natural and will help heal and mend your body. Refer to your note’s, and figure out which foods make you feel better or worse. There will be many taste bud changes, so eat what you can stomach.
- Reach out to people – I stated an Instagram page @cancerchemocarbs. I wanted to reach out to others who are going through cancer and treatment. If I could help just one person, in any way, I would feel better. I have met some beautiful people. From different backgrounds, cultures, and countries. It really makes you realize that cancer can affect anyone.
The most important thing I’ve learned: stop dreaming and start living. For years, my husband and I have spoken of grand plans, and what we want to do, but have never gotten to fulfilling these plans. This illness has happened for a reason, one that in ten years’ time I will know, I’m sure. I am determined and I know that something good will come from this illness. The best view comes after the hardest climb!