Grace Pritchard was 19 when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma
A 19-year-old gym-goer was shocked to find out her sudden weight loss over the summer was in fact cancer.
Grace Pritchard, now 20, dropped more than 7lbs (3.2kg) in the lead up to her Marbella holiday in September 2018, but assumed it was because she had started exercising twice a week.
She also noticed a 20p-size lump in her neck while at a music festival but brushed it off as being nothing serious.
Things escalated when Miss Pritchard, of Worcestershire, was struck by sharp chest pains in Marbella that left her breathless.
When she returned home Miss Pritchard saw her GP, and days later was dealt the devastating news that she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Miss Pritchard lost her long locks after six months of chemotherapy but came out the gruelling treatment in remission – and has returned to college to begin training in midwifery.
She is now raising awareness of the blood cancer, which is most likely to strike people between 20 and 40 years old.
Miss Pritchard lost her long locks to of six months of chemotherapy. She is now in remission
Miss Pritchard, pictured with her parents, Jo, 49, and Steve, 51, said: ‘It’s the worst thing me or my family have ever been through’
Miss Pritchard said of her diagnosis: ‘My family walked into the room and you could just tell from the doctor’s face straight away.
‘She said she didn’t think it was good news and I just zoned out. My parents [Jo, 49 and Steve, 51] were talking to her and I could tell from their reaction, it wasn’t good.
‘I had no idea what lymphoma was. I don’t think I’d ever heard of it. I knew it was something bad by the way she said it.’
Miss Pritchard added: ‘She gave me a handout that said “lymphoma cancer”, and that was when I realised.’
The teenager thought she was healthy and normal in the summer of 2018, in the lead up to starting an access course for midwifery at college.
She said: ‘I lost a lot of weight in the summer, which I know now was a symptom of the disease.
‘I just thought it was a diet and exercise working as I lost weight very quickly. Even if I ate unhealthy food I wasn’t putting any weight on which was strange.’
Miss Pritchard lost around of Worcestershire, West Midlands, lost seven pounds (3.2kg) in the summer of 2018, but assumed it was because she was going to the gym. Pictured in July 2018
In August 2018, Miss Pritchard was at the music festival Bestival when she noticed a small lump on her neck about the size of a 20p. She forgot about it until it got bigger
Miss Pritchard, pictured during treatment, said: ‘The doctors reassured me everything would be fine and I would be cured. ‘They said if you’re going to get cancer its one of the best to get’
WHAT IS HODGKIN’S LYMPHOMA?
Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a type of cancer that starts in the white blood cells.
It affects around 1,950 people each year in the UK.
A common early symptom is having a painless swelling in the armpits, neck and groin.
Some people also experience heavy night sweating, extreme weight loss, itching, shortness of breath and coughing.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma is most common between the ages of 20 and 24, and 75 and 79.
It has been linked to people with lowered immunity, a family history of the condition, smokers and those who are overweight.
Treatment may include chemotherapy, radiotherapy, steroids and stem cell or bone marrow transplants.
Source: Cancer Research UK
In August 2018, Miss Pritchard was at the music festival Bestival, in Dorset, when she found a lump in her neck – an early symptom of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, along with swelling in the armpits and groin.
She said: ‘I was with my friend Izzie when I brought it up. We just had another drink and forgot about it – I didn’t want it to ruin my weekend.
‘I decided to ignore it for a bit to see if it would go down.
‘It was about the size of a 20p, and I just thought it must be a gland.
‘By the time I had it removed, on September 24, it was the size of a milk bottle cap.’
Miss Pritchard had also been bothered with night sweats – another common sign of the cancer, but she just put it down to the hot weather.
She said: ‘Looking back now, it was different. I was soaking, my hair was completely wet.
‘Then I went away in September to Marbella with my sister [Olivia, 23] family and friends.
‘I got off the plane and was struggling to breathe. It felt as though someone was sitting on my chest and I couldn’t get a proper breath unless I bent to the side.
Miss Pritchard, pictured with her boyfriend, Nat, 20, had chest pains while on holiday in Marbella. She visited her GP when she came back
By the time Miss Pritchard had the lump in her neck (see left) removed, on September 24, it was the size of a milk bottle cap’ (see right)
‘That stayed for the whole holiday, but still, once I came back to see the doctor I didn’t think it was anything to worry about.’
Miss Pritchard was sent for a chest X-ray by her GP and the next day, she received a worrying phone call to come back.
She received an official diagnosis of stage two Hodgkin’s lymphoma on October 4, after a biopsy.
She said: ‘It was awful, you don’t really imagine that’s what they will tell you when you go to the doctor. It’s the worst thing me or my family have ever been through.
‘The rest of the day I was surrounded by my family and boyfriend, Nat, to understand what was happening.
‘The doctors reassured me everything would be fine and I would be cured. They said if you’re going to get cancer its one of the best to get. It was really positive.’
Around 2,100 people in the UK are diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma each year, and 300 people die.
In the US, 8,110 people are diagnosed every year, and 1,000 people die, according to figures.
The disease develops in the lymphatic system, which is a network of vessels and glands spread throughout the body.
Miss Pritchard had one last blow-out trip to London with friends before she started six cycles of chemotherapy on October 16.
She said: ‘I couldn’t live a normal life. Everything was on hold for a few months.
Miss Pritchard said she had no idea what lymphoma cancer was but she ‘knew it was something bad’ from the way the doctor said it. She is pictured after reaching remission
Miss Pritchard said losing her hair was the hardest part of her journey because strangers knew she was ill. She cut it off before chemotherapy (pictured)
‘I had sickness, a tummy ache, an aching body, a horrible taste in my mouth and no appetite for food. It’s like having a really bad hangover – but it sticks around for five or six days.
‘I know it sounds bad but losing my hair was the worst part. It made it so obvious to strangers I was ill, and they didn’t know who I was before.
‘To begin with I was a bit upset, but throughout it I never felt down I just had to crack on with it and get on with my life.’
On June 3 this year, Miss Pritchard awaited the results of scans which would reveal if the cancer had gone.
She said: ‘My name was finally called and my doctor was so calm. You can tell what’s coming the moment you see your doctors face; she was smiling.
‘The moment she told me I was in remission… I just couldn’t stop crying, for me it still hasn’t really sunk in even now.
‘I’ve learnt more about myself in the last few months then I have ever before. It’s opened my eyes up to what I have and what life is really about, being healthy and happy, everything else is really quite insignificant.’