Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a type
of cancer of the lymphatic system.
It starts in lymphocytes,
which are a type of white blood cell
which are part
of the body's immune system
and mainly appear in the lymph glands.
When I first went to the hospital
just for my test results
I had no idea it would be cancer
cancer happens to somebody else.
There are many different types
and we divide them
into high-grade and low-grade types
depending on how quickly they grow,
how urgently they need to be treated
and how intensively we need
to treat them for the best results.
So high-grade lymphomas
tend to be the ones which grow quickly,
which need to be treated fairly quickly
and which need
quite intensive forms of treatment.
I was just in a state of shock.
I just sat there.
I didn't know what to ask,
how to react or anything.
We don't really know what causes
most cases of Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
It seems to be in large part
just bad luck.
that there are some groups of people
who are much more susceptible
to Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma,
for example those who have
a suppressed immune system,
perhaps after a transplant,
or those who have HIV infection,
but in general the cause of
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is not known.
I had a lump at the back of my neck
that I'd had for 10 or 15 years.
In general Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
is commonest after the age of 60,
but unlike many other types of cancer
we also see quite a large number
of cases in a much younger population
right down into early childhood.
All I could think about
was I was going to die from cancer.
There was no point in booking a
there was no point in mowing the lawn
or even going to the hairdresser's
because I didn't think I'd survive.
can affect any system in the body,
so it can present
in a lot of different ways.
By far the most common is for people
to notice a swollen lymph gland,
whether it's in the neck or
under their arm or perhaps in the groin.
But it can equally well present
with fluid in the chest
causing difficulties with breathing,
with swelling in the stomach
causing pain or distension
or blockage of the bowel,
or if, for example,
it's a lymphoma of the brain
they may present like a brain tumour
with reduction of consciousness
or symptoms that look like a stroke.
(Maureen) After a while, when my
was so big and I wasn't feeling well,
they decided I should have
an oral type of chemotherapy.
You just take it every day at home,
you don't have to go in for treatment.
I never felt ill and after about
six months the lumps went down.
Because there are many different
there are many types of treatment
that we use.
The most commonly used treatment
is chemotherapy of some sort,
which may be in tablet form
or may be more often given by injection.
Together with that we very often use
a treatment called antibody treatment,
which is a small protein molecule
which is made to stick selectively
to the cells of lymphoma.
In addition we quite often use
radiotherapy as part of the treatment
and sometimes operations are needed,
although that's not commonly done
to make the diagnosis with a biopsy.
It really is a bit of a rollercoaster.
You're thinking, "I'm fine now"
and then, "Oh, no, there's a
I'd best go back to the hospital."
And I also had radiotherapy this
because it was Stage 4,
so it was in my groin and my
my chest and my neck.
It's very important to have the
diagnosis made as quickly as possible
so that you can make a plan
There is an enormous range
of behaviour in lymphomas,
so some of the slow-growing
may not need any treatment at all
after they've been diagnosed
for many years, if ever.
On the other hand the high-grade ones
may need to be treated
as a matter of urgency.
The important thing is to get
the information, to get diagnosed,
to get a biopsy as quickly as possible.
(Maureen) Get as much information
as you can
when you've been told you've got cancer
is very, very useful.
Join a support group, talk to your
your clinical nurse specialist,
or your Macmillan nurse
or just join any group
where other people are suffering
from the same sort of thing.
There are a variety of different
for useful advice about lymphoma.
The CancerHelp website
run by Cancer Research UK
has a lot of information,
both about lymphoma and about the
of treatment which are commonly used
and, very importantly, about the
of clinical trials and research
that people can take part in.
Another very good organisation in
is the Lymphoma Association,
which runs support groups
all over the country.
There is life after cancer.
You don't have to give up.
I've had it for 17 years
and I know I'm going to be here
till I'm really ancient
so I can make my children's lives hell.