Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma: Stories of Hope - A Second Chance at Life

Contributed by: Dr Richard Quek

After Jasmine gave birth to her first child in 2019, the last thing she expected was getting cancer. Fortunately, the young mother managed to overcome many challenges in her fight against the disease and discovered a second chance at life.

Jasmine had just returned back to work after her maternity leave when she started getting breathless from walking up flights of stairs as well as a persistent cough for more than 2 months. She had gone to see her GP but her condition was thought to be related to fatigue from taking care of her newborn.

Despite everyone’s concerns, Jasmine went on to go for a babymoon holiday with her husband to Bangkok for a week. The trip was an exhausting one for her, as she had to constantly take breaks in between walking and shopping to catch her breath. When she returned home, her concerned mother insisted she get herself a referral to see a specialist and an X-ray to make sure that everything was okay.

Her X-ray showed that one lung was white while the other was black. Her specialist referred her to an oncologist for further testing and biopsy, which subsequently confirmed that she had Stage 4 Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma.

  • According to Dr Richard Quek, Senior Consultant, Medical Oncology, Lymphoma is ranked the 5th most common cancer in men and 6th most common cancer in women in Singapore.
  • Lymphoma is a cancer of the body’s lymphatic system, and can be classified into two main subtypes: Hodgkin Lymphoma and non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. The most common Lymphoma in adults is Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma (DLBCL), which is an aggressive type of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.
  • DLBCL affects B-lymphocytes, a type of blood cell that produces antibodies to ward off infections. Patients with DLBCL and Lymphoma in general may present with lymph node swelling, unexplained fever, unusual weight loss, low or high lymphocyte count, fatigue, difficulty in breathing, and skin itchiness.

Dealing with a cancer diagnosis

As a new mother, her first thought upon receiving her diagnosis was her infant daughter.

“My daughter was only 6 months old at the time of diagnosis,” recalled Jasmine. “Breastfeeding was put to an abrupt stop, and spending lengths of time in the hospital meant time away from her. I didn’t know if I was going to live past this and see her grow up.”

Like many cancer patients, Jasmine was also worried about losing her job, not being able to work and not being able to accomplish many things in life, especially as she was still very young.

The biggest challenge for Jasmine was undergoing treatment and dealing with treatment side effects.

“As my immunity was low, I was susceptible to infections and constantly had high fever,” Jasmine shared. “My doctors were worried and had me admitted each time I had an infection.

“I also lost all my hair from chemotherapy. At the start, it was hard to accept,” Jasmine admitted. “I bought wigs and hats to cover up my head because I honestly hated not having any hair. I was also tired and had no energy to eat or look after my daughter, which saddened me.”

“Life can never return back to normal”

Jasmine’s life took a 360 degree turn after her initial diagnosis. “Life can never return back to normal when you have gone through cancer,” she said. “You’ll always be more cautious, and even the people around you will be more worried for you.”

However, Jasmine does not see this negatively “I learned to look after my body a whole lot more and cherish my time with the people I love, and do the things that I love most.”

In March 2020, Jasmine finished 6 cycles of chemotherapy treatment and is currently in complete remission. After such a challenging chapter in her life, she is ready to begin the next with a new lease of life.

“I am grateful for my husband who spent sleepless nights worrying and accompanying me to appointments and hospital stays, as well as my parents who looked after me and my daughter during this period. I also had a supportive company for letting me go on long medical leave to recover, as well as family and friends who showered me and my family with lots of love during this difficult period.

“I am thankful for getting a second chance at life. I now treasure the importance of time and the people around me, and am focused on living life to the fullest.”

POSTED IN Up Close and Personal
TAGS cancer screening, hodgkin lymphoma, life after cancer, non-hodgkin lymphoma
READ MORE ABOUT Hodgkin Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma