Trainee doctor reveals treatment for aggressive form of blood cancer

A trainee doctor who has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of blood cancer is documenting her experience in a series of eye-opening videos on social media.

Eleri Reece-Jones, 21, from Rhuallt, Denbighshire, first noticed a lump in her neck while she was working on the Covid-19 wards during the first national lockdown.

At first, doctors thought she had a case of glandular fever, but over time more lumps started to appear and in January she was officially given a diagnosis of stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

She has now gained more than 32,000 followers on on TikTok, as well as hundreds of thousands of comments of support, and is now urging others to go to the GP and have their health checked. 

Speaking with the BBC, she said she was determined to stay positive in her videos, explaining: ‘When I first found out I definitely was upset and struggled with it for a couple of days and I just thought everyone’s going through a hard time and I’ve got to make this easier for myself, so I’m just going to try and be as happy as I can to find some kind of benefit in this. I’ve already seen so many positives.’ 

Eleri Reece-Jones, 21, (pictured) from Rhuallt, Denbighshire, is undergoing treatment for an aggressive form of blood cancer

Eleri Reece-Jones, 21, (pictured) from Rhuallt, Denbighshire, is undergoing treatment for an aggressive form of blood cancer

The trainee doctor first went to doctors in September, and again in November, but they still suspected glandular fever. 

Finally in December, because Eleri wasn’t displaying other symptoms or feeling unwell in herself, she was referred for a needle biopsy and had to undergo surgery to confirm her diagnosis. 

Eleri explained: ‘I have stage four cancer which means it is in my chest, and my neck and my bones.

‘Even though its stage four the treatment is really effective. It’s quite aggressive cancer but there has been so much work into it lately that the prognosis is really good.’

Eleri (pictured) went to the doctors last year, after spotting suspicious lumps on her neck however medics turned her away thinking she had glandular fever

Eleri (pictured) went to the doctors last year, after spotting suspicious lumps on her neck however medics turned her away thinking she had glandular fever

Eleri is due to start chemotherapy on February 18, which she expects will last for six months, before hopefully entering remission.

In the coming weeks, she will be cutting off her hair and donating it to the Little Princess Trust – who are supplying her with a wig once she begins her chemotherapy.

She said: ‘With short hair, it isn’t as traumatic when it falls out from the chemotherapy.’

Meanwhile she has started sharing videos of her cancer journey, with each clip giving people an inside view into all of the appointments.

Eleri (pictured) who is a medical student at Bangor University, has racked up over 32,000 followers on TikTok from sharing her battle with cancer

 Eleri (pictured) who is a medical student at Bangor University, has racked up over 32,000 followers on TikTok from sharing her battle with cancer

Eleri (pictured) said treatment is still effective, although she has stage four cancer and is due to start chemotherapy

Eleri (pictured) said treatment is still effective, although she has stage four cancer and is due to start chemotherapy 

WHAT IS LYMPHOMA?

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph nodes, which is the body’s disease-fighting network.

That network consists of the spleen, bone marrow, lymph nodes and thymus gland. 

There are various types of lymphoma, but two main ones: non-Hodgkin’s and Hodgkin’s.

Both have much better prognoses than many types of cancer. 

WHAT IS HODGKIN’S LYMPHOMA?

Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a type of cancer that starts in the white blood cells. It is named after Thomas Hodgkin, an English doctor who first identified the disease in 1832.  

It affects around 1,950 people each year in the UK, and 8,500 a year in the US.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma is most common between the ages of 20 and 24, and 75 and 79. 

Five-year survival rates:

The survival rates are much more favorable than most other cancers. 

  • Stage 1: 90%
  • Stage 2: 90%
  • Stage 3: 80%
  • Stage 4: 65% 

Symptoms include: 

  • a painless swelling in the armpits, neck and groin 
  • heavy night sweating
  • extreme weight loss 
  • itching
  • shortness of breath 
  • coughing 

Risk factors: 

  • lowered immunity
  • a family history of the condition
  • smokers 
  • those who are overweight

Treatment: 

  • chemotherapy
  • radiotherapy
  • steroids 
  • stem cell or bone marrow transplants

WHAT IS NON-HODGKIN’S LYMPHOMA?

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can occur anywhere in the body but is usually first noticed in the lymph nodes around sufferers’ necks.

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma affects around 13,700 new people every year in the UK. In the US, more than 74,600 people are diagnosed annually.

It is more common in males than females, and it is commonly diagnosed either in a patient’s early 20s or after the age of 55. 

Five-year survival rates:

Survival can vary widely with NHL. 

The general survival rate for five years is 70 percent, and the chance of living 10 years is approximately 60 percent. 

Symptoms include:

  • Painless swellings in the neck, armpit or groin
  • Heavy night sweating
  • Unexplained weight loss of more than one-tenth of a person’s body
  • Itching

Risk factors:

  • over 75
  • have a weak immune system
  • suffer from celiac disease
  • have a family history of the condition 
  • have had other types of cancer

Treatment:

It depends on the number and locations of the body affected by Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Therapy typically includes chemotherapy.

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She said she is determined to show the world the complete raw emotions she has felt at every stage so far.

In one clip, the doctor explained: ‘I’m sharing a message of positivity, I’m taking people with me on my appointments, I’m sharing my journey.

‘But also I think there is an underlying message that GP’s are still open. If you have something weird or you have a lump, go and get it checked.

‘I’ve had so much support, it’s been really moving, people have been really really kind.

‘Some of the messages have just meant so much to me, I don’t think people know how much they mean, and how kind people really are.

Eleri (pictured) has received a flood of messages from people offering their support as well as others who are suffering from cancer

 Eleri (pictured) has received a flood of messages from people offering their support as well as others who are suffering from cancer

Meanwhile she continued: ‘I think its a hard time at the moment for everyone, I think everyone is struggling, and you only have to read some of those comments to see how much everyone cares about everyone going through a hard time.’

Eleri has received messages from people who have had the same form cancer as well as those who have been affected by cancer in general.

She said: ‘With cancer, there is the big thing about losing your hair due to the chemotherapy, and there have with alopecia who have reached out because they can relate to the similar struggles.

‘One of my university housemates had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma four years ago, so I have really good support.’

You can follow Eleri’s story on TikTok @Elarireecejones

Eleri (pictured) was referred for a needle biopsy and had to undergo surgery to confirm her diagnosis after returning in December

Eleri (pictured) was referred for a needle biopsy and had to undergo surgery to confirm her diagnosis after returning in December