Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a type

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 because
cancer happens to somebody else.

There are many different types
of lymphoma

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.

We know
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 holiday,
there was no point in mowing the lawn

or even going to the hairdresser's
because I didn't think I'd survive.

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
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 neck
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 types
of lymphoma

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 except
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 lump there.
I'd best go back to the hospital."

And I also had radiotherapy this time
because it was Stage 4,

so it was in my groin and my stomach,
my chest and my neck.

It's very important to have the correct
diagnosis made as quickly as possible

so that you can make a plan
for treatment.

There is an enormous range
of behaviour in lymphomas,

so some of the slow-growing
low-grade ones

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

because information
is very, very useful.

Join a support group, talk to your CNS,
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 places
to look

for useful advice about lymphoma.

The CancerHelp website
run by Cancer Research UK

has a lot of information,

both about lymphoma and about the sorts
of treatment which are commonly used

and, very importantly, about the types
of clinical trials and research

that people can take part in.

Another very good organisation in the UK
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.