“I was able to keep it under control with the tablets, creams and soap-free products, but my skin was still uncontrollably itchy and no one could tell me why.”
Almost a year after the rash first appeared, Marisa began to feel increasingly lethargic and suffer from night sweats – factors she put down to her hectic work schedule. Then, months later she woke to discover a golf ball-sized lump on her neck. Following scans and biopsy, doctors confirmed the worst: she had already progressed to stage 4 of the disease.
“I was in shock. It's not something you expect to hear just a couple of weeks before your 26th birthday,” Marisa said.
She immediately started a six-month course of chemotherapy as well as other intensive medications in an effort to rid the disease from her body. Amazingly, just four months in, tests confirmed the treatments had worked: the cancer cells had completely disappeared.
Now officially in remission (although she still has three sessions of chemo left), Marisa has an entirely new outlook on life.
“I'm discovering that it's okay to need to rest or take some time off from work and normal life duties,” she said. “We only get one chance at this life and I am fully prepared to live it to the absolute fullest I can. The first thing I am looking forward to is going on a holiday with my boyfriend to somewhere warm and sunny. I want to see the world and experience new things!”
According to the Mayo Clinic, Hodgkin’s lymphoma begins in a lymph node (often in the neck) and can spread throughout the lymphatic system. Experts remain in the dark as to what exactly causes it, although risk factors include age (between 20-40 and over 55-years-old), being previously diagnosed with certain viruses (e.g Epstein-Barr) and a family history of the disease. Around 647 Aussies are diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma each year, with the chance of survival improving dramatically if detected early.
You can find out more at Lymphoma Australia.