A young Scots man was devastated to discover he had cancer whilst alone in Australia.
Lawyer Jamie Dods, 25, was 10,500 miles away from his parents when doctors diagnosed him with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in October 2019.
Jamie, from Glasgow, was traveling alone around Sydney whilst on a gap year, following his law first degree, when he began experiencing an excruciating itch.
Jamie, who was 23 at the time of his diagnosis, said one doctor told him he may be ‘just be allergic to Australia’.
He said: “I had been feeling quite tired before I left on my travels but just put it down to working hard for my law degree. Once over there my symptoms worsened; I was sick, really tired and itching so I went to the doctor .
“They had no idea what was causing the itch and gave me different creams to try. I was covered in spots and scratches. One doctor treated me for scabies and another told me I could actually just be allergic to Australia.
“It wasn’t until another doctor sent me for a chest X-Ray that they discovered what was really going on.”
Jamie was in hospital on his own when doctors told him he had Stage 2B Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
He added: “It was the last thing I expected to be told. Cancer hadn’t even crossed my mind. I was on my own lying in a strange hospital. It all came as a complete shock.
“I later learned that my little cousin, who lives in Sydney, was diagnosed with Leukemia in the same hospital a year before.”
Luckily Jamie’s mum Kate’s sister lives in Sydney so he was able to call on her for support before flying back home two weeks later.
I have started treatment at the Beatson three days later.
Jamie then underwent a grueling six-month program of a chemotherapy combination called ABVD.
ABVD is named after the chemo drugs which are used in the treatment.
During this time, Jamie visited the Beatson WOSCC every two weeks, accompanied every time by his dad, Paul.
That all had to change in the last few weeks of his treatment as the pandemic began to unfold.
Jamie said: “I was at the tail end of my treatment when COVID struck, so for the last few weeks dad couldn’t come in with me.
“Most days he would sit out in the car park for around five hours waiting for me. It was a long day without him by my side but we all kept each other going.
“Everyone was in the same boat and the staff were amazing. The Clinical Nurse Specialist Kirsty, Lisa, the Teenage Cancer Trust’s Youth Support Co-ordinator and all the nurses were always around for a chat and a laugh.
“That might sound odd, but they made a bad situation all ok. They all knew we were without family and friends so they filled that gap.”
Jamie spent the next six months in isolation to keep safe from COVID and said he is very thankful to his parents for caring for him during the last few years.
He said: “Even at 23 you still need your mum and dad. They have both been amazing. Being apart from them when I found out was difficult for all of us but there was nothing we could do.
“When I got home mum and dad were there for me every step of the way. I knew I had to stay strong and positive. It was the only way I could get through it.”
After various scans and blood tests, Jamie is now in remission.
He added: “I’m now in excellent health, in remission and all my bloods are clear.
“I was a shell of myself going through treatment but am now ready to get on with the rest of my life.”
In September Jamie was able to start another law degree, which will help him fulfill his dream of working around the world.
He said: “I had studied Scot’s Law originally but to work in the rest of the UK, the States or Australia I needed to get a Common Law degree and that’s what I have been doing ever since. I hope to graduate at the end of June and I can then plan what I am doing with the rest of my life. My dream is to one day work in New York.”
Clinical Nurse Specialist for Teenagers and Young Adults with Cancer Kirsty Laing is based at the Beatson. She said: “The impact of COVID-19 has had a profound impact on so many of our young people which has often led to social isolation from their family and peers at a time in their life when they need that support the most.
“As Jamie described, due to the restrictions around COVID 19 there were times where he had to attend the Beatson for treatment alone. It’s lovely to hear that in the absence of Jamie’s family he felt that we were able to provide such essential support to him.
“It has been a pleasure supporting Jamie throughout the duration of his treatment, recovery and beyond.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.