Amy O’Sullivan is a Visual Artist from Clonskeagh in Co. Dublin and was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in November 2020, shortly after her 29th Birthday.
She had been suffering from a prolonged cough for a number of months, and had visited her GP on many occasions with no resolution.
“When I look back on that time now I realise I wasn’t myself but I had allowed this version of me to become my norm. I looked awful, was always exhausted, stressed and struggling to sleep but I just assumed that it was from lockdown/Covid anxiety.”
At the end of October 2020 she coughed up some blood and knew something was seriously wrong. She went to A&E and after an X-ray she was discharged, however a few days later she received a call to come back into the hospital again.
When Amy went back to the hospital she was told she had a very abnormal x-ray. She was in complete shock.
It was particularly tough news to receive because as a result of Covid-19 restrictions, she was on her own when she heard the words “We are extremely worried. You have a very abnormal X- ray. It looks like there is some sort of mass in your lung".
“I was in complete and utter shock. I knew from looking at the doctor’s eyes and body language that they were terrified for me. It was so much more traumatic that there was nobody there. I remember getting in the car with my Mum afterwards and I just started screaming and roaring," she said.
Amy says that this discovery came as a complete shock to her and her family, and having to wait for biopsy results was the worst part.
“That wait and not knowing what was going on was horrific. It felt like a nightmare that you couldn’t wake up from," she said.
After six weeks of tests and biopsies she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma
Because of the severity of Amy’s cancer, her treatment began five days after she received her diagnosis. This meant she was unable to undergo egg harvesting to futureproof her fertility. She has been put on hormone therapy to help protect her fertility, but the uncertainty has been hard to cope with.
“I’ve always wanted to have kids. When I got the diagnosis, I was getting ready to freeze my eggs, but I didn’t have time, because we had to start treatment immediately. If my cancer had been caught earlier I may have had more time to do this, but hopefully it will all be fine," she said.
Amy says that receiving a cancer diagnosis at any time is horrendous, but going through cancer during Covid has made things so much more difficult
“It’s been incredibly isolating. I haven’t been able to leave the house or see my friends. Being in the house with my own family was even frightening. At one point I was scared to leave my bedroom. You feel like you can’t even hug your own parents without being afraid," she said.
Throughout her diagnosis, Amy used the Irish Cancer Society to find trusted information on her type of cancer and says she found it ‘really helpful’.
Amy has found her chemotherapy really tough. She has had extreme exhaustion, hair loss, nausea and vomiting. She is still undergoing treatment and thankfully doctors are really happy with her progress so far.
She says “I can’t wait to get through it all. I’m counting down the days. Although it’s been an extremely traumatic experience, I’m grateful for all of the things that cancer has taught me. I’m so much more empathetic towards others and I'm so grateful for everything that I have. I’ll be walking away very glad to see the back of it, but I will also have learned a lot too," she said.
The Irish Cancer Society Support Line is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm for support and advice on any cancer related issue.