UNBEATEN BY NON-HODGKIN LYMPHOMA
When jewellery designer and lecturer Hannah Webb had a chest x-ray she thought nothing would come of it. Four years later, she recalls her diagnosis and journey to overcome non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
“It was July 2017 and we were staying in a hotel because our cellar had flooded. I was really, really tired and couldn’t walk up the stairs of the hotel without getting out of breath,” Hannah tells This Is MedTech. “I would wake up in a morning and cough and eventually I would be waking up and coughing so much I would be sick. I wouldn’t be able to eat my breakfast, and it was just tomatoes, eggs and salad leaves, not a hefty piece of toast that’s burnt on the sides,” Hannah jokes.
“I thought it might have been hay fever or dust from my job,” she continues. “Doctors kept putting it down to the flood, not living at home and stress.” They did some basic tests and prescribed antibiotics. In the absence of any evidence of infection, they ordered a chest x-ray.
“Within half an hour I had a phone call from the GP instructing me to go straight back in. They had seen giant masses on the x-ray,” Hannah recalls. A scan and then a biopsy revealed that she had cancer, and a PET scan later showed that it had spread extensively. “There were too many tumours to count. They were everywhere,” she continues.
Hannah moved under the care of a specialist cancer treatment centre and was diagnosed with primary mediastinal large B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma. “Within a few hours of having the PET scan I was on treatment,” Hannah remembers.
Over the next seven months she underwent a series of treatments to combat the aggressive cancer, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Despite being in and out of hospital and battling with complications along the way, Hannah worked hard to keep things as normal as possible for her then nine-year-old son.
Her fortitude paid off as her post-chemotherapy scan showed that the treatment had worked. “You could see the cancer disappearing on the PET scan. It was in remission,” she recalls. Hannah went on to receive radiotherapy and three rounds of preventive chemotherapy. By this time, she had already returned to teaching after the summer break, fitting most of her appointments around work.
“The professor at the specialist cancer treatment centre told me afterwards that if I hadn’t started my treatment when I did, I wouldn’t have survived beyond two weeks,” Hannah explains. “While I do have side effects from the treatment, the lymphoma is now gone.”
Looking back at her treatment for This Is MedTech during Leukaemia and Lymphoma Awareness Month, Hannah reflects on the value of supportive friends and focusing on what’s important. “You find out who your friends are and who you can rely on,” she explains. “You also need to choose what is important and you just do those things. Like getting the first treatment slot of the day to avoid delays. “Whatever treatment you have, beg for the first appointment!” Hannah smiles.