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Spreading the message for Lymphoma Awareness Month

“To me, it was just a lump. I didn’t think I had anything to worry about, but it turned out to be something extremely serious. That’s the scary thing about it.”

At the beginning of 2023, life took an unexpected turn for 43-year-old father Guy Dunn.

Discovering a lump in his neck, Guy took the precautionary steps of having it looked at by a specialist.

Unbeknownst to him, the small lump would thrust him into a battle with stage three non-Hodgkin’s mantle cell lymphoma.

“I had some PET scans and bone marrow aspiration, and it turned out I was full of cancer; I was on the borderline of stage four but was diagnosed with stage three,” Guy said.

“It turns out I had cancer in my groin, stomach, armpits, lungs, my bone marrow and my throat.

“But all I could see was the small lump in my neck, which had been slowly growing for a year before I got it checked — I had no idea that I had cancer throughout my body.”

GV Health clinical nurse specialist Eva Driver said it was important to learn the signs and symptoms of lymphoma.

“A lot of symptoms can initially present very vague and can be attributed to other illnesses,” she said.

“For example, people with local infections can have swollen glands, neck, groin and armpits and over time, our body fights the infection and they go away.

“What we’re looking for [in cancer] is persistent swelling, which is swelling that lasts more than a couple of weeks, and other symptoms such as fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, itchiness of the skin and pain when drinking alcohol.”

Guy said his journey had been difficult but credited the staff at GV Health for providing the comfort and encouragement he needed.

“It’s been a very hard year but coming into GV Health makes a world of a difference, and without the support from the nurses, I don’t know how I would have been able to handle it,” he said.

“They were constantly reassuring me and made me feel comfortable, and Eva, my main nurse, calls me when I am at home to see how I’m going, which adds that personal touch.”

GV Health has partnerships with St Vincent’s Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and offers visiting haematologists and telehealth appointments to ensure patients are treated locally.

“Over the last couple of years, we’ve had a really large increase in the number of haematology patients we support, which we’re really proud of because it means that people can have their treatment locally and don’t have to travel to Melbourne as much,” Eva said.

“For patients like Guy, this relieves a lot of stress involved with travelling but also relieves the financial burden.”

Now in remission, Guy will begin maintenance treatment in November and require chemotherapy every three months.

He urges community members not to ignore the signs and symptoms attributed to cancer.

“Don’t ignore the little things — get checked out,” he said.

“Even if it’s nothing, you’re better off finding out because I thought I had nothing, and I thought I would be okay, and now my whole life has had to change.”