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Woman diagnosed with aggressive blood cancer after mistaking symptoms for long Covid for 6 months

“Whenever I searched my symptoms online, it always came up with long Covid, cancer wasn’t even really a question”

A woman was diagnosed with aggressive blood cancer - after mistaking her symptoms for long covid for six months.

Nichola Petermann, 27, who works as a TV runner, put her symptoms down to having Covid in January 2021.

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But by June she was taking paracetamol six times a day and having baths at 2am to help her back pain.

Nichola looked up her symptoms online and thought she had long Covid.

She eventually called NHS24 on June 4 after six months of suffering and was told to go to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow.

A CT scan of her chest and abdomen found she had enlarged lymph nodes and medics diagnosed her aggressive Stage 4 B Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

She was told to start treatment immediately and warned her fertility could be affected.

Nichola feels like her life has been ‘put on hold’

Nichola, from Mount Florida, Glasgow, went into remission on September 30 after three months of chemo.

But she is now experiencing a temporary menopause and suffers from hot flushes, and feels her life has been "put on hold" as she sees friends settling down and having kids.

Nichola said: “Whenever I searched my symptoms online, which you’re not supposed to, it always came up with long Covid, cancer wasn’t even really a question.

“So I thought it must be, it’s the only thing that makes sense.

“When I first called my GP in January about the pain he suggested it could be Covid was interfering with the scar tissue left behind from when I had appendicitis ten years ago.

“It got to the point I was taking paracetamol six times a day - waking up in the middle of the night to take them.

“I was going for a bath at 2am to ease my back pain and going back to sleep.

“I was really struggling at work - I would crouch behind walls so I wouldn’t be seen not doing my job.

“On Friday, June 4, I realised I couldn’t cope, and I called NHS24 on my way home after work.

“It wasn’t until they asked how I was self-medicating that they realised I was taking too much paracetamol.

“I went to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital’s immediate assessment unit where they took my bloods.

“They did chest X-rays to see if they could find anything but they couldn’t.

“They took an ultrasound for a closer look and that’s when they found an ovarian cyst and trapped fluid.

“I was sent for a CT scan of my chest and abdomen - they found enlarged lymph nodes and fluid around my lungs.

“They told me they would send me for a biopsy and that’s when I realised this is probably cancer.

“I went for another scan at the Beatson a week later - they found it was Stage 4 B Hodgkin’s lymphoma and said I’d need to start chemo the next day.

“They said it was my choice but they strongly recommended that I didn’t go for fertility preservation because it would take too much time.

“I’m very lucky in that I don’t think I want children.”

‘I told my mum I wanted to give up treatment because it was so harsh’

Nichola was forced to pause her dream career in TV after months of enduring crippling abdominal pain and fatigue.

She lived with her mum during her treatment and was so unwell she often wanted to give up.

Nichola said: “When I started chemo I had really bad side effects.

“The thought of how long I was going to have to go through with it was what terrified me.

“I told my mum I wanted to give up treatment because it was so harsh.

“I had ulcers so bad to the point I wasn’t eating or drinking anything.

“I had to have a nasal gastric tube inserted just to get calories.

“I lost three stone in as many weeks.

“When I first saw myself in the mirror after having not been able to get out of bed for a week and seeing how much weight I’d lost it was scary.”

‘It’ll take a long time until I am back to full health’

She is still suffering from chest pain and breathlessness and said the fatigue is the hardest thing to deal with.

Nichola added: “It will take quite a long time until I am back to full health.

“I’m still really fatigued - that’s the worst thing I have to deal with.

“I was told I am in temporary menopause, it could become early menopause.

“I have all the hot flushes, joint pains and not sleeping very well.

“I’ve been having chest pain and breathlessness, which is being checked out by the doctor.

“He doesn’t think it’s anything too serious but there are a lot of long term side effects that can come from chemotherapy.

“It is hard when I see everyone my age getting married and having kids and buying houses and my life’s just been put on hold.”

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