Man, 29, had cancer for three years before doctors found 60 tumours

In early May Australian carpenter Philip Ballard was given a shock diagnosis of follicular lymphoma.

Aged just 29, Philip, from Alice Springs, Northern Territory, had always lived a healthy lifestyle and enjoyed playing sports, skateboarding and keeping active with mates and his partner Grace.

The diagnosis came as a huge shock to Philip, who had no obvious symptoms and no family history of cancer.

Instead, all he noticed was a marble-sized lump on the right side of his neck above his collarbone.

It was in early May 2020 when Australian carpenter Philip Ballard (right) was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma

It was in early May 2020 when Australian carpenter Philip Ballard (right) was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma

Philip told FEMAIL the lump didn’t hurt and he never experienced any other pain, so he didn’t go to the doctor because he didn’t consider it to be anything sinister.

‘I couldn’t believe it; I was shocked and scared because I didn’t think this would happen to me – it definitely took a while to sink in,’ he said.

Follicular lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the white blood cells called lymphocytes that help the body fight infections.

The cancer is classified as non-Hodgkin lymphoma, as a type of cell called Reed-Sternberg wasn’t detected and is less deadly.

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'I couldn't believe it; I was shocked and scared because I didn't think this would happen to me - it definitely took a while to sink in,' he said

‘I couldn’t believe it; I was shocked and scared because I didn’t think this would happen to me – it definitely took a while to sink in,’ he said

‘I wasn’t tired, I had no pain or discomfort, there was just the small lump on my neck which at the time I thought was just a swollen lymph node,’ he said.

 I was working 40 to 60 hours a week and didn’t feel like there was anything wrong.

After being encouraged by his mum to go to the doctor, Philip had a few blood tests and was then flown to Darwin for further checks prior to being diagnosed, as there were no local specialists in Alice Springs. 

‘Doctors knew there was something wrong with my blood and later discovered I had been living with the cancer for three years,’ he said.

‘I never felt sick because the cancer was still in the very early stages and my body was fully functioning with the cancer – I was working 40 to 60 hours a week and didn’t feel like there was anything wrong.’

What is follicular lymphoma and what are the symptoms? 

Follicular lymphoma is a cancer that affects white blood cells called lymphocytes 

Follicular lymphoma is the most common sub type of low grade (indolent) lymphoma, making up 20 to 30 per cent of all non-Hodgkin lymphomas

The causes of follicular lymphoma are unknown. It is not due to infection and is not contagious 

It tends to grow slowly in most cases and by the time symptoms develop, 80 to 85 per cent of people are diagnosed with stage 3 or 4 follicular lymphoma

The most common first sign of follicular lymphoma is a painless swelling in the lymph nodes of the neck, armpit or groin

Other symptoms may include loss of appetite and tiredness, shortness of breath and generalised unexplained aches and pains

At the time of diagnosis, most people usually have tumours in many parts of the body and follicular lymphoma can sometimes transform into a more aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, usually diffuse large B-cell lymphoma

Source: leukaemia.org.au

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Follicular lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the white blood cells called lymphocytes that help the body fight infections

Follicular lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the white blood cells called lymphocytes that help the body fight infections 

As the lymphatic system runs along the entire body, Philip said doctors found 60 micro-tumours across his body in his chest, armpits and groin.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Philip was put on a waiting list before starting chemotherapy and waited four weeks before starting any treatment, which was stressful at times.

After grieving over the reality of the diagnosis, Philip said he had to ‘accept it’ but never thought was going to lose his life to the cancer.

As the lymphatic system runs along the entire body, Philip said doctors found 60 micro-tumours across his body in his chest, armpits and groin

As the lymphatic system runs along the entire body, Philip said doctors found 60 micro-tumours across his body in his chest, armpits and groin

After grieving over the reality of the diagnosis, Philip said he had to 'accept it' and never thought was going to lose his life to the cancer. He started his first round of chemotherapy in late May

After grieving over the reality of the diagnosis, Philip said he had to ‘accept it’ and never thought was going to lose his life to the cancer. He started his first round of chemotherapy in late May

In late May he began his first round of chemotherapy consisting of five different drugs, which continued for 18 weeks.

‘The treatment was difficult at first; my body had quite an intense negative reaction to the first dose as the doctors used a stronger drug because I was a younger patient,’ he said. 

‘The initial side effects were awful but expected; I was tired, vomiting, I had head spins, shivers and couldn’t sleep well.’

Due to the treatment, Philip lost his hair, eyelashes and eyebrows and said his bones felt ‘weak’.  

Due to the treatment, Philip lost his hair, eyelashes and eyebrows and said his bones felt 'weak'

Due to the treatment, Philip lost his hair, eyelashes and eyebrows and said his bones felt ‘weak’

Over the past six months, Philip hasn’t worked and instead focused on his health through clean eating and low-impact exercises, including short walks after each chemotherapy session. 

‘While I was bored at home, my mental health was never impacted and I never became depressed or anxious because of the cancer,’ he said.

‘To me it was just something I needed to get through, and the doctors and nurses did an amazing job.’ 

As his immune system was weak and vulnerable, he also ensured he didn’t get sick and is only now playing golf. 

Over the past five months, Philip hasn't worked and instead focused on his health through dieting and light walks

Philip said remaining positive 'is a must' and recommends for other young patients to 'do whatever you can' to maintain optimistic

Over the past five months, Philip hasn’t worked and instead focused on his health through dieting and light walks. ‘I feel amazing now and I feel like I’m getting back to reality,’ he said

His final round of chemotherapy on October 7 and said he is 'very grateful' for his family and partner for the continuous support

His final round of chemotherapy on October 7 and said he is ‘very grateful’ for his family and partner for the continuous support

Throughout the process, Philip has maintained a positive attitude which he said helped him during the treatments. 

His final round of chemotherapy was on October 7 and said he is ‘very grateful’ for his family and partner for the continuous support. 

‘I feel amazing now and I feel like I’m getting back to reality,’ he said. 

Philip said remaining positive ‘is a must’ and recommends for other young cancer patients to ‘do whatever you can’ to be optimistic. 

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