A YOUNG woman whose “itchy skin” was actually cancer has shared her 10 top tips on how to smile through chemotherapy despite her shock diagnosis.
Georgie Swallow, 27, thought she was suffering from common skin condition, eczema, for 12 months prior to her cancer diagnosis – which was only detected when a plum-sized lump formed on the side of her neck.
The 27-year-old had Hodgkin’s lymphoma – a rare cancer that develops in the lymphatic system – and needed six months of chemotherapy in a bid to save her life.
But despite Georgie’s cancer returning in June this year, she has remained optimistic and has since shared her top tips on how to smile through chemotherapy.
These include wearing fancy dress to chemotherapy, comparing her bald head to rounded objects such as a spoon and having fun with different coloured wigs.
Georgie, an executive assistant said: “My whole outlook on life has changed since being diagnosed with cancer and I refuse to be sad.
“My diagnosis was such a shock, I had been to the doctors three or four times before in the year as I had the most unscratchable itch, I cut certain foods as I thought it might have been an allergy and I was told it was eczema by doctors.
“I lost two stone in four weeks but at the time I was drinking meal replacement shakes so I thought they were amazing, I recommended it to all of my friends.
“Unbeknownst to me, it was another symptom of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, I only started to worry and research my symptoms when I suffered a month long bout of flu and woke up with a huge plum-sized lump in my throat.
“I self-diagnosed myself with cancer but talked myself out of it as there’s the joke of ‘don’t Google your symptoms as it will say you have cancer,’ but this time I actually did.”
Georgie’s Top Ten Chemo Tips
- It’s important to be able to see the funny side of things for example, compare your head to object e.g. a spoon
- Buy a dog – mine have helped me so much by giving me snuggles or helping me clear my head with a walk.
- Eat whatever makes you happy – If you want to eat a doughnut, eat a doughnut.
- Focus your energy on something good like fundraising.
- Turn up to chemotherapy in fancy dress
- Bring cakes and biscuits to chemo and offer them around – a great way to make chemo friends!
- Connect with people who are in the same situation
- Paint your head
- Have fun with wigs and wear crazy colours
- Always play the cancer card – it is your ultimate get out of jail free card
She continued: “It all happened so fast, I had a CT scan, biopsy and more tests then the following day I started chemotherapy in September 2018.
“The speed was a blessing, I didn’t have time to think, the day I was told I got my hair chopped off and I brought loads of comfy clothes.
“I just thought of fun ways to make sure cancer doesn’t bring me down, such as bringing a picnic to chemo.
“There was a period when my mental health took a dip as I didn’t recognise myself anymore, but I needed to feel bad to feel good.
“My looks changing really did affect me, so even though I was down about how I couldn’t recognise myself, I picked myself up by finding the fun and comparing my noggin to different objects and wearing crazy coloured wigs.
In February 2019, Georgie was in remission but sadly three months later her cancer had returned – she is currently going through chemotherapy and awaiting a stem cell transplant.
She has continued to stay positive and met lots of other women through style nights that are organised by support group Cancer Chicks and charity Trekstock – supports people in their 20s and 30s going through cancer.
Cancer Chicks have a support group on social media where women share tips and tricks and support.
She adds: “I felt better knowing there’s other girls who are going through the same as me, it is easier to talk to them about what I am going through as they are in the same boat.
“We have a laugh and a joke about our bald heads that resemble a potato and it is totally fine, it has helped me a lot.
“I might have cancer, but I am not going to stop living and I urge other girls to do the same.”