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A Liv On story from Frances

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I have had the pleasure of meeting truly inspirational people who helped me realise that I can beat this. I have been given a second chance. Life is precious and I am not going to waste a second of it.

My story is an interesting one of finding out about Lymphoma by chance. It is amazing how a life threatening illness can bring things into perspective very quickly. I had an innate feeling that something was wrong in mid- December 2015. I started to suffer serious discomfort in the right abdomen region, which was becoming more painful (I had experienced asthma problems and dizziness when overseas a few months before, but just thought I needed an asthma puffer). Symptoms were at times keeping me awake at night.

Over the next few weeks, cycles began searching to find out what was going on. I made night visits to the local Hospital and was sent home without diagnosis. I visited two other local General Practitioners, having blood tests and ultrasounds, results came back normal. My General Practitioner, Dr. Enas Sedrak, from Glenrock Country Practice, Wagga Wagga, was particularly busy leading up to Christmas and it was difficult to obtain an appointment. I give thanks every day for her professionalism, skills, empathy and insight into my needs. We have built a great doctor-patient relationship. Dr. Sedrak observed that I was pale in colour and after examination, arranged for a colonoscopy, gastroscopy and lymph node biopsy and a CT scan.

I was not Atypical, I had not lost weight and did not have night sweats. Dr. Sedrak delivered the news and the CT scans showed I had Lymphoma. During this time, I learned everything I could about my illness and this helped me through the process. I was very motivated during this period, to study presentations on the Lymphoma Australia website from world experts regarding the Lymphoma Symposium in 2015 including presentations from Professor Grigg on relapsed Lymphoma and Dr. Mathias J. Rummel Professor of Medicine University Hospital Giessen in Germany investigating the long term results of Bendamustine and Rituximab. I asked Doctor Sedrak to refer me to Professor Andrew Grigg Director of Clinical Hematology at the Austin Hospital. I was admitted to the Austin Hospital, Ward 7 and consultation with Professor Grigg to have further tests. I was diagnosed through PET Scan and further lymph node biopsy with Lymphoma on the right side of my neck, above and below the diaphragm and groin. A biopsy was taken of a large mass on the right side of my neck. It was confirmed that I had Advanced Non-Hodgkin’s Follicular Lymphoma, Stage 3. I was offered under research by Professor Grigg to be treated with the combination drug therapy of Bendamustine and Rituximab. I began infusions of in Hospital to begin with and then Day Oncology.

I am profoundly grateful for this opportunity. The visits to Day Oncology and the Ward were always greeted by skilled and professional oncology nurses, always sensitive to the patient’s needs. Nothing was too much trouble, they were genuinely committed to the welfare of the patients and family members. Throughout the course of my treatment I had regular visits with Professor Grigg, blood tests and scans to track my progress. I responded and tolerated the treatment very well, tumours reduced and Professor Grigg said ‘you are in remission’ after six treatments; I was given twelve in total. I could not believe my good fortune. The treatment not only slowed but stopped the disease progression. I had very few side effects during treatment, nausea for a day or two after each treatment then gradually lessened. The Hospital gave me anti-nausea medication if needed. I had no hair loss, and no infections except for an extraction of a tooth that had been problematic before my diagnosis, no serious adverse reactions and my energy kept up and I felt extremely well during the whole period  and  had a quick recovery.

I now have three monthly check-ups and PET Scans when required. Like many people who face life-threatening illness, I have truly appreciated and cherished the value of dear family and closest friends. Having Lymphoma has changed my life. I always endeavour to stay positive and proactive, eating healthily, exercising and taking time for quiet reflection. I am more mobile and in no pain. Challenges always bring moments for growth and learning. Lymphoma has taught me the importance of thinking outside the box, being inquisitive, and never giving up on the quest for information. I cannot speak highly enough of Professor Grigg and I feel so grateful to be under his care. I have had the opportunity of cutting edge treatment and he always keeps me up to date with whatever course of action is best for me. He is genuinely interested in my quality of life, my family and our adventures. I am very appreciative that the Austin Hospital has been at the forefront of cancer treatment and offers it patients its comprehensive cancer care.

The Olivia Newton John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre is the most modern research and innovative patient-centred cancer facility in Australia. The Wellness Centre had companionship and support and other services available including an Oncology Massage Therapist to help with symptom management and wellbeing. I have had the pleasure of meeting truly inspirational people who helped me realise that I can beat this. I have been given a second chance. Life is precious and I am not going to waste a second of it. Professor Grigg and the Staff, together with Dr. Sedrak saved my life by their interventions have restored my quality of life. I will be forever in their debt.

Frances

Fran's Story

Fran's Story

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