Portsmouth cancer survivor says anxiety 'was the worst part' of his diagnosis

WHEN father-of-two Josh Eaton was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 29 he never thought the toughest part of treatment would be the effect on his mental health.

Tuesday, 12th October 2021, 4:55 am
Josh Eaton, from Portsmouth, who surivied Hodgkin lymphoma

The Portsmouth resident discovered he had Hodgkin lymphoma three years ago and was so ill after his first round of chemotherapy, he had to spend almost two weeks in hospital.

That kicked off months of anxiety, which became more debilitating to Josh than the treatment or the cancer itself.

Josh, now 32, said: ‘It has taken me until now to come to terms with everything. To accept I have had cancer and move on with my life.

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Josh Eaton with his chlidren George and Max

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‘Anxiety was the worst part. When I was ill after the first round of chemotherapy it worried me for months that I wouldn’t survive the treatment or the cancer.

‘In fact, the treatment turned out not to be so bad after the first round.

‘People would try and tell me that Hodgkin lymphoma is treatable and more people survive than don’t but it didn’t really help at the time.

Josh (left) after taking part in the Race for Life

‘I would just think there is still a 15 to 20 per cent chance that I’m going to die from this. That is not something you want to even consider with two young children.’

Josh, who lives with his partner Holly, and their two boys, Max, nine, and George, seven, started to worry after finding a swelling on his neck.

He felt his initial visit to the GP surgery was not taken very seriously at first but after requesting to see another GP, Josh had an anxious six-week wait before he could be referred.

‘Some work colleagues told me it was in my head and the GP didn’t seem to be bothered at first either,’ he said.

‘I knew something wasn’t right and I was honestly relieved that it had been found and would be treated.’

When Josh started chemotherapy in June 2018, he opted not to work during his treatment to cut down the risk of infection but he ended up in hospital with a high temperature anyway.

He said: ‘You ask the nurses when you might be able to go home and no one can give you the answers you’re looking for. For me it was a pretty scary and traumatic experience.’

Having finished treatment later that year Josh was having regular check-ups and hoped he had finished it for good. But he still lived in fear of the cancer returning.

Now, with professional help, Josh is changing his outlook on life.

He said: ‘After this experience it’s put life into perspective for me. I try and spend as much time as I can with my children and I’m not too unhappy when Pompey lose any more.

‘Things that I thought were important really aren’t and that has been a positive change. My dad often reminds me to live one day at a time and I feel like that has helped my mindset.’

Josh ran the Race for Life 10K at Portsmouth the summer after his treatment finished as he wanted to raise awareness about donating blood and becoming a bone marrow donor.

‘One of the nurses at my GP surgery donated her bone marrow and for me that shows true compassion to save someone you’ve never met,’ he said.

‘We would all expect to receive blood if we needed it or to be matched with a stem cell donor but there is nowhere near enough people willing to give it themselves.’

He is encouraging others to do the same by taking part in the Cancer Research UK Race for Life in Southsea on October 30 and 31.

He added: ‘I couldn’t even jog for one minute after my treatment and in just a few weeks I went from not being able to run at all to running the whole way.

‘I raised £1,600 and it felt great to achieve something.

‘I definitely recommend taking part. Even those who can’t run or jog could walk it.’

The event takes place at Southsea Common and includes a 3K, 5K, 10K as well as the Pretty Muddy race.

To find out more visit raceforlife.cancerresearchuk.org.

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