'I'm the luckiest person I know'

Juliana Abell's story of her battle against non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

Living with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

In February 2005 I was fit, running up to fifteen miles a week and working out in the gym, and felt wonderful, except for certain strange stomach upsets.

My GP sent me to my local hospital in Grantham for a scan and this picked up a tumour by my pancreas.

Although I knew what a tumour could mean, I was convinced it wasn't serious. Even when I got the diagnosis of lymphoma I didn't believe it was cancer. I felt too well. The doctor showed me a test tube with a little white thread in it. 'That's your tumour,' she said. I thought malignant tumours were black.

As soon as the result came through, I was admitted to the Leicester Royal Infirmary for a scan and a bone marrow sample. At around the same time in March, I had my first meeting with my consultant, and was given chemotherapy.

My husband, David, came with me. To be honest, I've felt throughout that this illness is worse for him than for me.

I didn't know a lot about chemotherapy, although I got very nervous before and during the first two sessions, but luckily I didn't have a bad time with side effects.

The thing that made everything easy was that I totally trusted my consultant and everyone else who had anything to do with me.

I actually looked forward to the chemotherapy injections, because I so liked talking to the nurses who gave them to me.

My family and friends were superb. My five stepchildren couldn't have been kinder and David took me on a wonderful, romantic trip to Norfolk after the first chemotherapy. The treatment was tough but it certainly wasn't unbearable. I wasn't allowed to eat many of my favourite foods, but I enjoyed what I was allowed to eat. I became tired easily, but it was such a treat to lie down in the afternoon with a good book. After the eighth treatment, at the end of 2005, my melon-sized tumour had shrunk to three centimetres, and we went to Australia for December and January. When I got home, my tumour had shrunk even further and my consultant was delighted.

I'm now getting fit again. With the help of an excellent physiotherapist I completed the Great North Run in 2006, and raised more than £14,000 for charity. I'm well aware that my lymphoma isn't curable and that my tiny tumour will probably grow or pop up somewhere else and might even turn aggressive, but I'm not going to let that worry me.

I suppose all cancer patients think about dying and I'm no exception, but death doesn't worry me. The only thing that matters is my life now. I think I'm the luckiest person I know. I've got so much hope and so much to live for. Juliana Abell, 56, is from Leicestershire

For more information on Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, look at the Lymphoma Association's website


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