Lymphoma: ‘I had time to freeze my eggs before starting chemo’

Picture caption, Maria Austin was identified with most cancers in January

  • Writer, Marie-Louise Connolly
  • Position, Well being correspondent

A west Belfast girl says she was fortunate to have been given time to freeze her eggs earlier than beginning chemotherapy in her struggle towards most cancers.

Maria Austin, 25, who’s a classroom assistant, was identified with Hodgkin lymphoma in January.

“The egg freezing was essential and so vital as a result of I’m nonetheless younger, I need to have a household when I’m older,” she mentioned.

Maria mentioned she is telling her story to spotlight the significance of early most cancers prognosis and to assist different younger individuals address signs shedescribes as “life altering”.

It comes as the most recent Division of Well being (DoH) statistics present fewer than a 3rd – 29.8% – of sufferers started their most cancers therapy inside the really helpful 62 days – effectively under the 95% goal.

What do the most recent most cancers figures present?

The newest figures intention to supply an image of ready instances for sufferers accessing most cancers companies between the primary three months of 2023.

They present a dramatic drop within the variety of individuals beginning therapy for breast most cancers inside the really helpful goal.

Between January and March, solely 34.1% of sufferers requiring breast most cancers therapy had been seen inside 14 days of their GP pressing referral.

For a similar interval in 2023 the determine was 84.2%.

The ministerial goal states that each one pressing breast most cancers referrals must be seen inside 14 days.

The newest most cancers ready instances reveal that not one of the targets set by the well being minister have been met.

In accordance with DoH, the figures must be handled with warning as Embody – the brand new digital affected person file system – continues to be in growth on the South Japanese Well being Belief which has affected the information.

Sarah Christie, of Macmillan Most cancers Help mentioned she believed the system was on “the verge of collapsing.”

“Now we have had the options when it comes to many reviews in relation to reform from the early 2000s.

“The options are there, however nothing has been performed with them,” she added

‘Why me?’

For Maria, early diagonsis was essential to permit her to freeze her eggs.

“Chemo and most cancers impacts fertility and may put you into early menopause,” she informed BBC Information NI.

“To have that wee window of two weeks to undergo fertility therapy, it was arduous, it was three needles a day, however I’m lucky I had the chance.”

Maria, who underwent 4 rounds of chemotherapy, mentioned firstly she saved asking “why me?”.

She mentioned the fixed illness and dropping her hair was arduous.

“Sooner or later my hair simply saved falling out – inside 4 weeks I had no hair left,” she mentioned.

“That was a problem, and I’m now utilizing wigs and headscarves. I’ve tried to seek out magnificence someplace else, so I’m engaged on my make-up.”

Maria’s chemotherapy has labored. A latest PET scan revealed the tumour had shrunk.

Now she could have radiotherapy therapy as an alternative.

Picture caption, Maria has been sporting wigs and headscarves since present process chemotherapy

The significance of early prognosis is echoed by Sam Clarke, who was identified with lymphoma in 2015 and has undergone a stem cell transplant.

The 51-year-old, who lives in Bangor, County Down, mentioned being “caught and signposted” at an early stage was critically vital, however one thing that sadly he had not at all times seen with household and buddies.

“Entry is completely different for everybody,” Sam mentioned.

“It will depend on your age, the place you’re from, however that each one must be addressed to offer everybody a fast and even platform to be seen as rapidly as attainable.

“It is extremely hit or miss as a result of the particular person you first have to see is the GP and doubtlessly you won’t see one for weeks or possibly for a month or two.

“There may be additionally the referral and getting by way of the system as a result of everyone seems to be already working so arduous coping with different most cancers sufferers.”

Picture caption, Sam Clarke was identified with lymphoma in 2015

Elevating consciousness

Picture caption, Sam Clarke, pictured a number of years in the past

Maria and Sam are each constructive, humble, and intensely grateful.

Whereas filming their tales there have been tears and laughter.

Maria mentioned she had turned her prognosis into one thing constructive and that plenty of individuals had acquired in contact by social media.

“There isn’t plenty of assist on the market for younger individuals with most cancers, the physique picture uncomfortable side effects together with the burden acquire and hair loss – if I might help I’ll,” she mentioned.

“Do not let that phrase ‘most cancers’ drag you down, be constructive and if in case you have that constructive perspective these round you may be constructive.

“Do not let it the phrase ‘most cancers’ or ‘sufferer’ decide you, simply be a fighter.”

Sam mentioned he was now half Welsh as his stem cell donor was from Wales and he known as on the general public to enroll to the stem cell register.

“His blood and his stem cells had been grafted into me and make up my white blood cells, so my blood sort ended up altering to his – it’s exceptional what occurs however his donation has saved me alive,” he mentioned.

“So, it’s not nearly chemo and radiotherapy additionally it is in regards to the public, opening up their minds to see what they’ll do to assist these dwelling with most cancers.”

Picture caption, Sam and his stem cell match

What’s lymphoma?

Lymphoma is a most cancers of the lymphatic system. It develops when blood cells known as lymphocytes develop into irregular.

Regular lymphocytes struggle an infection. They’re a part of the lymphatic system which helps shield your physique from an infection and illness.

There are two fundamental sorts of lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

When somebody has Hodgkin lymphoma, HL B-lymphocytes begin to multiply in an irregular method and start to gather in sure components of the lymphatic system such because the lymph nodes (glands).

The most typical symptom is a painless swelling in a lymph node, often within the neck, armpit, or groin.

Cancers identified in individuals aged between 18 and 49 in Northern Eire have risen by 20% prior to now 25 years.

The analysis carried out by Queen’s College Belfast and the NI Most cancers Registry in contrast 2019 statistics with 1993 figures, when registry data started.

Figures confirmed that by 2019, 1,076 individuals aged 18-49 had been identified with some type of most cancers.

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