29-year-old Amanda was counting down to the happiest day of her life when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in July 2014, one month before she was due to marry the love of her life, Gordon.
“I was feeling unwell and had visited my doctor for check-ups a few times but there was nothing obvious. I also had several blood tests which were all coming back ok.”
It was then that Amanda found several lumps on her neck. Over the next few weeks, Amanda continued to find more which, by the time of diagnosis, had resulted in a lump the size of a small sausage under her collarbone.
“Being told I had Hodgkin lymphoma felt like my whole world was crashing down. Cancer is something you don’t want to hear and you think ‘this can’t be happening to me’. It doesn’t feel real and your body goes numb. My parents and Gordon were with me when I was given the diagnosis and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen my dad break down.”
An appointment with a haematologist confirmed the cancer was stage two and chemotherapy and radiation treatment would be required. Aware that Amanda was a young 27-year-old woman, getting married and intending to start a family, the doctors offered fertility treatment to freeze her eggs.
“I was too terrified to not start treatment straight away, but also terrified of infertility. I wanted to start my own family more than anything but because you have to wait for your cycle before you start, it’s risky and so I went ahead with chemotherapy.”
Chemotherapy took its toll, with Amanda having to take medication for nausea and vomiting.
“I remember lying in bed, just feeling like my body was dying after each chemo treatment. For a few days you don’t even want to move and you try to just eat whatever will stay down. My mum had to force me to eat and, even then, it was mainly spinach.”
Amanda’s mum and Gordon came to every appointment and treatment. Amongst this the wedding date loomed.
“The haematologist suggested Gordon and I change the date because my immune system was weak but I was determined to go through with it. I didn’t want 2014 to be the year of cancer; I wanted it to be the year I married the man I loved.”
On 16 August 2014, Amanda and Gordon were married at Curzon Hall in Sydney’s Marsfield.
“It was a beautiful wedding day and I was very grateful.”
Amanda continued chemotherapy after her wedding, crediting her new marriage and husband in keeping her positive.
“I would watch the video of our wedding because it made me happy and want to keep on going. There were so many times I wanted to just give up but Gordon is my rock and always remained positive. When I was feeling really low, he always brought me up. The nurses were incredible too and even created a bit of a honeymoon vibe in the hospital for me.”
Radiation followed chemotherapy and in late 2014 Amanda finished treatment.
On 8 September 2015, Amanda gave birth to a beautiful boy, Harry.
“As many cancer patients do, I had a lot of fears around treatment and infertility. I guess I was determined to just try and beat the cancer and then start a family, which we have.”
Amanda returned to work at the start of 2015, saying the transition was hard.
“I was very self-conscious about my appearance and especially my hair. It sounds stupid but I loved my hair and, as a woman, losing it was really hard for me. But the girls I work with are like family and made me feel very comfortable. People do ask me about cancer but I don’t mind talking about it. I prefer they ask over not bringing it up.”
14 months after being diagnosed, Amanda is feeling healthy and can’t wait to have more children. She hopes sharing her story will help other people affected by cancer.
“I used to get stressed about everything but I have a completely different perspective on life and don’t take anything for granted anymore. When I was diagnosed some people reacted with stories of people they knew who had died from cancer which I found horrible! The best thing you can do when you have cancer is to keep being positive and surround yourself with likeminded people. I hope that there’s a cure found soon so we can give everyone hope that, if they do get cancer, they will survive.”
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