Ben’s story. “What you’ve got is something called lymphoma”
Ben was diagnosed with lymphoma after noticing a lump on his back. He has been going through radiotherapy treatment at Guy’s Hospital in London so has to travel by train there and back five or six times a week which leaves him feeling exhausted.
Ben has been supported by Abby, a Young Lives vs Cancer social worker, throughout his treatment who has helped with grants towards the costs of cancer as well as arranging days out and events to help bring some positivity.
“It was a few years ago I noticed a lump on my back, it was quite itchy. Then I noticed a lump in my right breast, I went to doctors, was sent to breast clinic and had a biopsy. I waited three weeks for it to come back and it came back ok. While I was there I said ‘I also have this lump on my back would you mind looking at that as well’ they referred me to dermatology, that was February 2020.”
Due to delays during the pandemic, Ben’s dermatology appointment was delayed until February 2021. At the appointment they asked Ben if anything had happened around the same time as the lump forming and he said he had two tattoos done around that time.
“They never really thought it could have been cancer – I remember the worst case scenario was they could have to cut out the tattoos. They did a biopsy, some blood tests and scans, and it was about six weeks before I heard back in March.
“I had a call on the Monday ‘we have your results back, sorry it’s been so long, could you come tomorrow and bring someone with you?’ I thought ‘they’ve figured out what it is that’s good’.
“I went there on the Tuesday with my mum – I knew something wasn’t quite right because there was the doctor I had been speaking to but he also had two or three other doctors from different departments. He said ‘we’ll be referring you to haematology because we believe what you’ve got is something called lymphoma.’ I’d never heard of it before.
“We went outside and I said to my mum ‘is that what I think it is?’ and my mum said ‘yeah I think so’. I phoned the office and I said ‘I’m not coming back in today, they want me to go back up the hospital’ and she said ‘is everything ok?’ and I broke down into tears and my mum had to finish the call.”
Ben went on to have radiotherapy treatment in London, miles from his home in Colchester, Essex. He suffered with extreme fatigue while on treatment, which had an impact on his work.
“That’s the biggest challenge with radiotherapy, I’m knackered all the time for about three to four weeks afterwards. I’m an electrician, I work on building sites and I work in houses. I had a week off work initially but then I wanted to get back to work because I was sitting at home milling everything over – so they set me up on a project to take my mind off things. I’m off at the moment because of treatment but when I’m off like this I do online tasks, I do some paperwork so I’m still working behind the scenes.”
As well as having an impact on his job, Ben’s treatment has also had an impact on his families’ finances and time having to travel back and forth to London.
“We live about half hour from Colchester so when we go up to London we drive half an hour to the station then we get the train then we walk from Liverpool Street to Guy’s. The parking is £45 for the week and for me and my mum to go up it costs £290 for the week on the train. It’s been four times now so four lots of times of going up to London for the week.
“I’ve got a three-year-old sister so last year my mum would have to depend on my grandparents to look after my sister when she wasn’t at pre-school – which impacts on my grandparents, they’re old, they can’t do it all the time, they get tired quickly but if it wasn’t for them last year would have been a massive struggle.”
Ben has been supported by Abby, a Young Lives vs Cancer social worker throughout his treatment.
“When I was first diagnosed 18 months ago one of the first things that Abby came up to me and said was we offer this grant, as soon as you get diagnosed you get put through to us we’re there, we’re a hand to hold, we can talk to you and we offer grants. The first thing that happened was I was given £100 grant for doing absolutely nothing.
“Abby’s organised a couple of charities to talk to me and be able to get stuff for me – one of my rounds of treatment was over February which was Valentine’s day. Abby arranged for a charity to give us a voucher so we could go out and have a nice meal. It really does take away from everything that’s going on.”
Posted on Thursday 5 January 2023