A letter from lymphoma survivor Alexia

Monday 14 December, 2020

Alexia in hospital

This is me when I was 13 and undergoing treatment

Hi friend,

My name is Alexia. I’ve been in cancer remission for nine years, and it’s thanks to the support of people like you that I am still here today.

Before my awful experience, I had never really heard of cancer before. I had never seen anyone go through it.

But in 2011, just after I started Year 7, my father noticed a fairly big lump on the left side of my neck.

My mum took me to the emergency room at the Royal Children’s Hospital, where they straight away took me for biopsies.

The lump was Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Mum says it was probably the worst day of her life. Hearing that her 13-year-old daughter has cancer and needs all these treatments and isn’t sure if the treatments will work; you can only imagine the feeling.

Because I was so young, I didn’t really understand it was a life-threatening disease. As my mum explained it to me, I think I was actually more scared of losing my hair at that age than thinking of the worst.

A day or two after my diagnosis, I started chemotherapy.

I wasn’t really able to go to school for that whole time because the chemo made me really sick. My immune system was down, and I remember feeling so insecure about having no hair.

I pretty much lost my first year of high school. I mostly just had to stay indoors; even going down to the park was difficult. I couldn’t really be exposed to sunlight because I would burn really easily, and in the cold weather I couldn’t get sick, otherwise I would have to go straight to the hospital.

This time was stressful for the whole family, but they were really supportive. They made it very easy for me to mentally and physically recover from what I was going through with my treatment.

I did roughly six months of chemo and three months of radiation therapy. I did a few other tests in between, but I can’t really remember what they were.

But I definitely remember my final treatment. I was so happy. I was just so over the moon about everything. We threw a little barbecue to celebrate.

Alexia

In a good place now!

Even after I went into remission, it wasn’t straight back to normal. Being that age you’re so wrapped up in high school, having friends and going to parties; I didn’t really get to do any of that, because I was still recovering.

Growing my hair back was still a challenge; my hair made me feel a bit out of everything. But wigs and make up helped me gain my confidence back, and within about six months was feeling myself again.

I’m very grateful for finally recovering. I’m 22 now, working at a logistics company as an operator and living in Melbourne’s west. I’m in a good place now.

Good on you and thank you so much for the part you’ve played in this cause as well. Some people think Cancer Council is basically just trying to find a cure. If a cure were found one day it would be amazing, but I try to tell them that it’s not just about that: it’s about further research, further treatments, faster treatments, and to help keep people comfortable through a diagnosis – people like me and my family.

Thank you for what you’ve done to help people like me make it through a diagnosis. I feel so lucky to have recovered and be in the good place I’m in now. Good on you – you are making such a huge difference.