Kay Hamilton has lived with large cell lymphoma for the last 20 years. Over this time her positivity and desire to give back has helped her overcome many challenges.
Kay was first diagnosed in 1998. At the time it was thought that once treated successfully, the disease would not return. Kay first knew something was wrong when she experienced severe back pain and was referred to an osteopath. It turned out her back was fine. She then saw another specialist about a lump on her neck and all of a sudden things began to get serious and Kay was quickly admitted to Auckland City Hospital.
“My doctors told me I was lucky to be alive as I had tumours all through my abdomen, on my spleen and aorta”
Kay says she credits her full recovery to an exceptional medical team who thought quickly and treated her fast.
“I had an excellent doctor and oncologist who were very supportive and attentive throughout my treatment. My return to health was due to a medical team who were so professional and very caring,” says Kay.
Kay was told the treatment was successful and she got used to her ‘new normal’ while getting back into her day to day life and routine.
Fourteen years later in 2012, Kay relapsed and was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma proving that contrary to earlier medical beliefs, the cancer could reoccur.
“I was just completely floored that I was diagnosed for a second time so many years later and my medical team were just as surprised!” says Kay.
She was admitted once again to hospital for treatment and the good news was that medical advances meant many improvements had been made to chemotherapy treatments.
“It was an extremely stressful and difficult time for my family and I. My husband Kerry had been diagnosed with incurable cancer at the same time and at one stage we were both in Auckland City Hospital undergoing treatment,” says Kay.
“While it took six months of treatment to clear me again of cancer, Kerry died around this time leaving a big gap in my life and that was not easy to recover from,” says Kay.
Recovering from treatment and the loss of a husband at the same time is hard to imagine, but Kay managed with the help of her dog Zippy, close friends and Rebecca, Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand’s Support Services Coordinator in Auckland at that time.
“Rebecca was just wonderful doing things like organising meals for me as I was on my own or simply ringing me up to ask how my treatment went. Grace and Tim also joined LBC later on and were just as wonderful,” says Kay.
”My close friends and neighbours were also always there for me and were kind enough to drive me to my appointments,” says Kay.
Kay said it was important to her to keep busy and to try help other blood cancer patients where she could. Kay wanted to support LBC so she began making patchwork quilts and teddy bears, which LBC gives to patients.
“The quilts and teddy bears are a way for me to stay busy and gift something lovely to children and families going through what I have been through”
Kay also shares the quilt making task with a sewing group called Shore Stitches, which meets regularly to complete squares.
Almost 20 years on from her first diagnosis, Kay is doing well and completed her two year course of maintenance treatment earlier this year.
“Nowadays I just get on with each day as it comes!”