Leukaemia Foundation

Change Your Location:

Golf ball sized lump leads to rare and aggressive blood cancer

Published Date: 16 October 2017 Categories: Patients, Hodgkin Lymphoma, Lymphoma

Rosie MacLeod

Like most people with a physically demanding profession, Brisbane student nurse Rosie MacLeod (above, with boyfriend Patrick) initially assumed her sore neck was a result of just another day on the job.

She went to her doctor thinking the golf ball-sized lump in her neck was simply a pulled muscle that could be massaged out.

“I had also been losing my voice and feeling really tired, but didn’t think it was all connected,” the 21-year-old said.

Her GP sent her for an ultrasound instead, which showed a tumour running down her sternum.

Lymphoma diagnosis

Last year, after an open neck surgical biopsy, she was diagnosed with lymphoma, although doctors initially couldn’t figure out what type.

“They couldn’t work out whether it was Hodgkin’s or non-Hodgkin’s, which lead to gray zone lymphoma,” Rosie said.

Gray zone lymphoma is a very rare and aggressive lymphoma that has features of both B-cell lymphoma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“Doctors were really reluctant to start a treatment plan for me, so I was referred to a specialist,” Rosie said.

Chemotherapy treatment

Brisbane haematologist Dr Ashish Misra prescribed a unique and intense treatment gray zone lymphoma regimen for Rosie.

“It was five types of drugs for five days, with a 24 hour infusion via a pump that was attached to me.

“I’d have a two week break then it would all start again,” Rosie said.

In total Rosie went through six months of chemotherapy and one month of radiation.

“I lost my hair, had bone pain and bad mouth ulcers. Luckily I didn’t have any nausea,” Rosie said.

Leukaemia Foundation support

Four months into her chemotherapy regimen, Rosie started the Leukaemia Foundation’s Fit to Thrive exercise program.

“I found it really helpful with my fatigue, and the routine also really helped to motivate me.

“It was also nice hanging out with people who understood what I was going through,” Rosie said.

Rosie found further support with 20/30 Chat, a Leukaemia Foundation-facilitated support group for younger people affected by a blood cancer or disorder.

"The hardest thing about having cancer as a 20-year-old is that none of your friends know what to say, so it was nice to meet other people on the same journey.”

Now, one year later, Rosie has returned in a limited capacity to both study and nursing.

“I do short, staggered shifts in low immunity wards, as it will be another year until my immune system recovers,” she said.

Although Rosie is slowly getting back into more of a routine, she is still very fatigued and finds is difficult to explain her limitations to people.

Despite her challenges, Rosie is determined to keep pushing ahead with her study.

“I’m hoping to finish my degree in December – and then take a very long holiday!”

For information about 20/30 Chat and Fit to Thrive, please contact us.

More Inspiring Stories