Danny's family visited the Lodge in May 2023.
Danny was 20 years old and studying Maths at Cardiff University, when he became ill, starting in June 2022 with a lingering cough, ongoing sinusitis, night sweats and unexplained weight loss. He was living in a shared student house in Cardiff at the time, and the doctors blamed the student lifestyle for his state of health (apparently students pick up everything going!). Despite 4 or 5 trips to the doctors over the next five months, and being tested for asthma and post nasal drip (both negative) they still weren’t particularly worried, despite the ongoing cough. They finally did some blood tests in October 2022, which showed elevated liver enzymes and abnormal white blood cells, and he was told to stop drinking (he wasn’t drinking much anyway, as he had been feeling so poorly). He was also told the white blood cell issue was probably because he had sinusitis. He was told to go back in a month and have bloods re-done. At this time, he weighed just 9 stone and we were so worried about him… he is 6 foot tall! Just before he was due to be re-tested, we met him in Cardiff and he complained that he’d found a lump on his collarbone. Alarm bells ringing, I immediately brought him home with us, and made him go to the doctors the next day. That was the start of a whirlwind journey that none of us were prepared for.
Danny was sent for an X-Ray the following day, and before we’d even left the hospital, we were called back for them to do a CT scan, as they’d found something a bit worrying. By the end of that day, we were called to our Doctors’ surgery, and were told that he had masses in both chest cavities and his neck. The doctor was almost certain it was Lymphoma, but only a biopsy could confirm. We had to wait an agonising two weeks for the biopsy results – a time of extreme worry, upset, confusion.. we just didn’t know what we were facing. Biopsy results showed Classic Hodgkins Lymphoma, and a further PET scan then showed that it was Stage 4 - it had leaked outside his lymphatic system and was now pooling in his abdomen and lungs too. I cannot describe the feeling of disbelief, helplessness and agony we all felt – this was our son, who had run half marathons, was a keen footballer, and had never been ill in his life. We were referred to Haematology at the Heath Hospital, Cardiff, and he was cared for by the Teenage Cancer Trust, who I must say were marvellous, I can’t praise the staff and the care he received highly enough! As Danny was otherwise young and fit, they decided to blast him with a horribly intense chemotherapy regime (BeacoppDac Escalated) – we were told he’d need 4 – 6 cycles. The treatment was very tough on him, and he had to pull out of his studies for this year, and also give up his part-time job. He needed to move back in with us at home to be looked after. As well as his independence, he lost all his hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, which is hard for a young 20 year old lad, but he took it all in his stride. He had issues with side effects from the chemo and we had many a trip to A&E with worrying symptoms, plus an overnight stay in hospital due to an infection.
We have recently had wonderful news – that Danny has responded well to the treatment and has now had a completely clear PET Scan. He has therefore finished chemotherapy and has just had an end-of-treatment CT scan, which we get the results of next week. We are hoping for on-going good news, though they will keep a careful eye on him for the next few years. Dan remains at home with us, as he still suffers from extreme fatigue and needs to concentrate on his recovery. He has put on 2.5 stone since he was diagnosed and is looking so much better!
We are extremely thankful to the Ben Saunders Foundation for this break away in the Cotswolds. It has been a most anxious time, and to be able to enjoy some time away as a family, now that we can relax a little, is most welcome. Danny in particular is in need of a break, he’s been so brave, and his strength throughout this ordeal has blown us away. I have joined the Foundation’s 200 club, so that they can offer more holidays to people like us, and also to people who are still suffering. Ben must have been an amazing person, to have thought of setting this all up whilst he was so ill – I’m sure he would be so proud that his family are continuing to build the Foundation in his memory.