Signs of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer: Aussie Maddie King ‘terrified’ after common night-time symptom leads to soul-crushing diagnosis

Maddie King was in the prime of her life when she was given shattering news – just three years after losing her dad to cancer.

The super fit business student, from Sydney, led an active lifestyle as she was training to become a professional ballerina and was swimming at state level for NSW.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Maddie’s cancer journey.

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Just as her life was beginning to fall into place, her world came crashing down – when she was diagnosed at 19 with stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, the most advanced form of blood cancer.

The teenager was told chemotherapy would likely rob her of the chance of having kids – and she would face the heartbreaking likelihood of going through early menopause.

Not only was she given a devastating diagnosis, Maddie says she “couldn’t bear the thought” of having her mum go through the same ordeal again, after her dad succumbed to cancer when she was just 16.

Maddie King was diagnosed at aged 19 with stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, the most advanced form of blood cancer. Credit: Maddie King
The hair loss was particularly tough for Maddie. Credit: Maddie King

“The hardest was managing the emotions and fears of the people around me more than my own,” Maddie, now 22, tells 7Life.

“It was extremely hard for my mum… She lost her husband to cancer in 2016 and then three years later, she had to watch her daughter suffer.

“I can’t even imagine what it would have been like for her. She would always say she wished she could take my place.”

Warning signs

Her gut-wrenching diagnosis all started with a “slight” cough that got progressively worse, followed by mild night sweats – but she put the symptom down to “sleeping with too many blankets on”.

However, she knew something wasn’t right when she noticed odd hard lumps under her skin around her neck in mid-2019.

“I was at a café and felt like something fell onto my neck,” Maddie recalls.

“When I reached up to touch above my collarbone, I felt all of these big hard lumps in my neck.”

The teen was in the prime of her life when she was given shattering news – just three years after losing her dad to cancer. Credit: Maddie King

She met with a doctor the “very next day” – but despite getting multiple blood tests, chest X-ray, CT scan and three needle biopsies, her results came back negative for cancer.

“The doctor did all the right things,” she explains.

“But it ended up taking three months from the day I walked into the doctor’s office before I finally got my diagnosis.”

At the time, Maddie wasn’t that concerned about her health so she travelled to the US for a planned six-month student exchange program.

“The doctor didn’t have any reason to stop me going overseas,” she explains.

Overseas trip cut short

But her Los Angeles trip was cut short after an American doctor she had an appointment with raised the alarm.

“He immediately said they needed to do an excisional biopsy and cut out a whole node to biopsy it properly,” she recalls.

“I flew home after only six weeks of what was supposed to be a six-month exchange, to get the biopsy procedure done.”

It took three months to get a diagnosis after numerous tests came back negative for cancer. Credit: Maddie King

By the time she received her result, Maddie was told cancer had spread all through her lungs, neck and chest.

Much to her surprise, doctors found a 9cm tumour in her left lung and more masses in her neck.

‘Waiting was torture’

“The day of the diagnosis was a blur, but it was actually the waiting process that was torture,” Maddie says.

“I couldn’t get off Google… thinking that you ‘might’ have cancer was far worse than just knowing you have it and being able to formulate a plan.

“However, I also felt relieved in some way – that I finally had a proper answer for what was going on with me to confirm it wasn’t all in my head.

“And it meant we could finally have a plan.”

It took three months to get a diagnosis after numerous tests came back negative for cancer. Credit: Maddie King

But nothing could prepare her for the soul-crushing news about the prospect of not being able to conceive kids naturally.

“I remember I was holding up okay until they told me that it was likely my treatment could make me infertile,” she says.

‘Broke down and cried’

“That’s when I finally broke down and cried my heart out.

“I’ve always known I wanted to be a mum.”

Maddie went through IVF to freeze her eggs.

“I recently started to try egg freezing to get some more eggs on ice but have had to confront the reality of perimenopause at 22,” she says.

“I’ve had two failed IVF cycles due to poor ovarian response and I’m trying to cope emotionally with that.”

The bright business student’s life changed one day at a cafe when she noticed something unusual on her neck. Credit: Maddie King

As she faced cancer at just 19, Maddie says she couldn’t help but feel conscious about her physical appearance.

“I really struggled with it, being a young girl who had always been very conscious of her appearance,” she says.

‘Terrifying feeling’

“It terrified me to think I would have to ‘look’ like a cancer patient. It was incredibly isolating because, even though I had close friends who were supportive, they couldn’t have possibly related to what I was about to go through.

“Considering I already felt a degree of maturity beyond my age due to losing my dad, I felt that gap between me and my peers get even wider as I went through my own cancer diagnosis.”

After her dad died, Maddie says she had to “grow up really quickly”.

After getting a negative cancer result, Maddie travelled to the US for her six-month student exchange program. Credit: Maddie King
As she began chemo, Maddie says she endured severe bone pain, mouth ulcers, extreme lethargy and drastic hair and weight loss. Credit: Maddie King

“Suddenly, it was like there was a big time stamp on my life: Before dad died and after dad died,” she says.

“Aside from the sadness, my day to day life didn’t change too much. I was in high school so I just went back to school when I was ready.

“But sometimes the grief of remembering I’ll live a whole entire life that he won’t get to see weighs very heavy.”

‘Brutal’ treatments

As she started gruelling rounds of chemotherapy, Maddie says she began to endure severe bone pain, mouth ulcers, extreme lethargy and drastic hair and weight loss.

“Tiredness was the main side effect from treatment, but it was brutal because I was also on such a high dose of steroids so it was really hard to sleep,” she says.

“I had really bad bone pain with these injections. The closest I came to going to ER was one night where the bone pain radiated into my skull and I was lying tossing and turning in my bed crying because of how bad the pain was.

“I had mouth ulcers which made it hard to eat some things, nausea on my chemo days – but hair loss was one of the hardest parts to deal with.”

Maddie says she ‘cried her heart out’ at the prospect of being left infertile by chemo. Credit: Maddie King
Maddie says she found the strength to get through each day when she started using her Instagram account as a ‘diary’ to share details about her journey.  Credit: Maddie King

During her treatments, she refused to let her mum go to any of her appointments.

“I didn’t let my mum come to a single chemo appointment the whole time I was sick,” Maddie says.

“For me, I couldn’t bear her to see me suffer, so I let my friends, boyfriend and brothers take me instead.”

She was prescribed a course of gruelling BEACOPP chemotherapy, a highly aggressive drug combination used to treat advanced Hodgkin lymphoma.

Good and bad days

“This went on for five months. It was a three-week cycle where I would have chemo on day one, two, three and eight,” she says.

“Day one was always the worst but I learnt to medicate the nausea properly.

“I ended up being a bit of a pro at chemo in the end and was doing yoga on some of my treatment days.

“I had some confusing scans so a few months after treatment finished, I decided to do some additional radiotherapy to my lung spot to make sure we got it all.”

Her struggles with hair loss sparked her business For Andy, selling stylish, sustainable headscarves. Credit: Maddie King
For those going through cancer, Maddie says: ‘Be gentle on yourself’ Credit: Maddie King

Maddie says she found the strength to get through each day when she started using her Instagram account as a “diary” to share details about her journey.

“Social media saved my life in many ways. It was a great outlet for me to express my emotions,” she says.

No sugar coating

“Like most who are diagnosed with cancer, I felt terrified, lost and extremely isolated.

“This led me to seek solace by connecting with other young women who had been dealt the same hand – we became great friends from all over the world. I turned to them in my darkest moments.

“I didn’t have to sugar coat symptoms or bad news with them, and they were with me in the worst experience of my life and therefore made things better.”

Maddie says she feels fortunate to be ‘able to get a second chance at life’. Credit: Maddie King
The super fit business student was training to become a professional ballerina and was swimming at state level for NSW. Credit: Maddie King

Her struggles with hair loss sparked her business For Andy, selling stylish, sustainable headscarves – with 10 per cent of proceeds going to clinical trials for incurable childhood cancers.

“When I lost my hair, I felt that wigs were itchy and uncomfortable so I didn’t like wearing them,” she says.

“And it was impossible to find headscarves that were fashionable, affordable, easy to tie, comfortable and light on my head.

‘Confidence breaks into pieces’

“Cancer is usually an ‘old person’s’ disease, and most products on the market reflected that demographic. Why did they all look so daggy?

“It seemed ridiculous that it was so hard to find accessories that made women feel beautiful during a time where our confidence gets broken into tiny pieces.

“So I decided to create them myself, for all the current and future women going through cancer, to make them feel just that little bit more beautiful and allow them to face the day with confidence.”

She named her brand after a girl she met named Andy who died from leukaemia in January 2020.

Maddie has not been on treatment over the past two-and-a-half years after being given the all-clear. Credit: Maddie King

Maddie has not been on treatment for the past two-and-a-half years, having been given the all-clear.

“I’m lucky that my cancer has high cure rates,” she says.

“In (the) cancer world, five years in remission is usually when they start to throw the ‘cured’ word around, so I guess I’m halfway to that.

‘Second chance at life’

“But anything could still happen despite it looking good at the moment. I constantly live with the fear of relapse even so far out of treatment.”

With medical research, modern technologies and advancements, Maddie says she feels fortunate to be “able to get a second chance at life”.

“I feel great,” she says.

“However, my body gets tired a lot easier, and my lungs have been damaged from the drugs and radiation so I get out of breath quicker than I used to.

“But I’m teaching Pilates and exercising nearly every day of the week without a problem.

“I just graduated university and finished up (with) a really exciting internship and I’m about to go travelling for five weeks through South America and America – almost like I get a second chance to do the exchange that cancer robbed from me.”

Maddie is sharing her story in support of the Children’s Cancer Institute’s ‘A Life Should Be Long’ campaign. Credit: Maddie King

For those going through cancer, Maddie says: “Be gentle on yourself, and connect with people who are going through the same.”

She adds: “There is nothing more valuable than the ability to wake up to a normal, boring day.

‘Consequences are debilitating’

“Too many young lives and futures are robbed by this disease, and even for those that survive, the consequences of treatment are at times debilitating.

“A life should be long.”

Maddie is sharing her story in support of the Children’s Cancer Institute’s ‘A Life Should Be Long’ campaign.

Through medical research, the institute aims to provide safer treatments for children, and help them beat cancer.

This festive season, you can give a child with cancer the best gift of all – more Christmases. You can donate by visiting CCIA.

Mum given devastating cancer diagnosis after her symptoms were dismissed.

Mum given devastating cancer diagnosis after her symptoms were dismissed.

https://7news.com.au/lifestyle/health-wellbeing/super-fit-aussie-terrified-after-common-night-time-symptom-leads-to-soul-crushing-diagnosis-c-9145878 Signs of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer: Aussie Maddie King ‘terrified’ after common night-time symptom leads to soul-crushing diagnosis

James Brien

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