When Katrina Vockler began experiencing “excruciating” lower back pain she had no idea it would be the beginning of months of uncertainty before she was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin lymphoma at just 21.
Now the 25-year-old Sunshine Coast woman is sharing her story, pushing for more cancer awareness among young people.
Initial scans were unable to reveal what was wrong with the childcare worker and she went to Central America for a holiday only to break out in a “severely itchy” rash while there,Daily Mail Australia reported.
Feeling constantly dizzy and tired followed, but it was only in April 2016 when physiotherapy had failed to help her back pain that she finally got a diagnosis.
The doctor told her she had Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer that starts in the white blood cells.
Lumps in the groin, neck or armpit are usually the most common symptom, however, Ms Vockler didn’t develop any swelling in her lymph nodes until after her diagnosis.
She believes people should be on alert if you feel off and push for a second opinion if the doctor you’re seeing can’t give you a definite answer.
“You know your body more than anyone and it will literally give off warning signs if something’s not right,” she told Daily Mail Australia.
By the time Ms Vockler had been diagnosed, the cancer had spread from her lymph nodes to her chest, neck and spine.
She went through four rounds of chemotherapy before trying natural therapies such as vitamin infusions, colonics which she said her doctors were “not impressed” by.
“They told me I wouldn’t live to see Christmas. I didn’t listen,” she said.
Despite feeling the natural therapies had been beneficial, her cancer prognosis got worse and she had to undergo more chemotherapy in 2018.
The gruelling treatment made Ms Vockler lose her long hair and feel like she was “on my death bed”.
For the last two years Ms Vockler has undergone immunotherapy and last week received the good news that most of her cancer has gone, with just a small amount remaining in a stomach gland.
Ms Vockler believes health authorities should do more to educate young people on the cancer risks as she is living proof that you can be diagnosed even if you’re fit and healthy.
“Everyone thinks you won’t get cancer unless you’re ‘older’ but the amount of young adults I’ve seen being diagnosed is absolutely heartbreaking,” she said.
Being diagnosed with cancer so young has given Ms Vockler “so much more meaning to life”, she wrote on Instagram last month.
She now feels at “at peace with the card I got dealt with” and is “one proud, happy chappy”.
“Of course there are still down days, but they only make me appreciate the good days so much more,” Ms Vockler wrote.
“I have so much trust in my body that these last bits (of cancer) will finally be gone soon enough.”
Most people with Hodgkin lymphoma have what is known as “B symptoms” including fever, weight loss and profuse sweating, according to the Cancer Council.
Other symptoms include those usually associated with the flu such as fatigue, cough, shortness of breath or rashes.