Kathryn was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma at the age of 22. She attended the Teenage and Young Adult clinic at Guy’s Hospital in London, which was set up with funding from Leukaemia UK, where she received psychological and clinical support

Finding out I had Hodgkin lymphoma was like a whirlwind, but at the same time it felt like everything had slowed right down. I had never heard of lymphoma, so when the doctor told me, I didn’t fully understand – I thought it was some sort of immune disease. When he said it was a cancer I was in shock – it hadn’t occurred to me that I might have cancer.

When I went to the Teenage and Young Adult clinic there was a big team – I met the specialist cancer nurse, the dietitian, the fertility expert and the psychologist, among other people. I’d never had so much help before. To start with, I didn’t think I needed it, but I did. It was really challenging and you really do need it.

Putting my trust in a fantastic team

To start with, I was more worried about my fertility than my prognosis. The fertility team at the clinic were fantastic. I was able to freeze my eggs and they helped me with my fertility worries.

I put my trust in the team – I did whatever they told me to do because I was just focused on surviving, taking care of myself and getting over the next hurdle, then the next.

I started talking to my psychologist, Clare, more regularly when I was having chemotherapy because I was really anxious about being sick as a result of the treatment.

Losing my hair was also really difficult. I’d had long, thick curly hair for years and it was part of my identity. When it started to fall out I really did feel like physically I was losing control.

When you go through this grueling treatment, you don’t know if it’s working and you’ve got to deal with that. Talking to Clare about it really helped.

Facing the emotional impact of treatment

When I was told I was in remission, it felt almost like an anti-climax. I cried a lot – sometimes out of happiness and sometimes out of sadness. I felt overwhelmed and even angry. I had a bit of depression at that stage. I’d always been quite resilient and goal-orientated, but now I felt I’d lost confidence.

Discussing this with my psychologist made me realise I wasn’t alone, that the different emotions I was feeling were normal. I learned I had to let go of what had changed or been lost as a result of cancer. It was traumatic, but I have built a new normal and I’m happy with how life has turned out. I am definitely more open to embracing opportunities, such as meeting my boyfriend who helped me get out of feeling depressed after it all.

I’m really lucky to have a very supportive family who I could talk to, but I think they sometimes felt powerless, because all they could do was listen. It really made a difference being able to discuss absolutely anything with Clare, I knew that she would understand and help me find coping strategies. I’ve been through some dark periods, but I’ve come to accept that we’re all human and you’ve got to look after yourself. When you're dealing with cancer it's OK to feel you can’t take it all in and to accept some help.

'My experience means I'm focusing more on my career'

Now, two and a half years after I went into remission, I have started a master’s degree at university, which is a conversion course to study psychology. What I realised when I had cancer was how important psychological support is for people. I saw the difference that the doctors and nurses were making to peoples’ lives.

My experience means I'm focusing more on my career and my future. I like the idea of helping people with their psychological needs and I hope by the end of my studies I’ll be able to help people directly too. 


Leukaemia UK hopes to help more people like Kathryn through our innovative Mind & Body project which offers emotional support alongside clinical support to people living with blood cancers. Find out how to donate here