A MAN who put his symptoms of tiredness and itchy skin down to a hangover was stunned to discover the true cause.
Andrew Frost, 27, had a boozy lads holiday in Thailand in June 2019, and on his return started to feel unwell.
He fainted just a few hours after landing in the UK but put it down to dehydration from a “really bad hangover”.
Andrew visited his GP when his itchiness became so bad it was “driving him mad”, and was told to take antihistamines.
It wasn’t until the otherwise healthy young man collapsed on the bathroom floor that he was rushed to hospital to carry out tests.
The HGV driver and former army lad passed out when docs told him he in fact had non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) – the sixth most common cancer in the UK.
It causes symptoms of itchiness, fatigue, night sweats, chest pain, abdominal pain, and unexplained weight loss.
Andrew, from Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, is now warning others not to ignore their symptoms and is raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support.
He said: "On holiday we were drinking and partying hard 24/7. There was no sunbathing, no sightseeing, it was just alcohol. It was a good holiday.
"I had a rash on the right-hand side of my arm that was like a heat rash.
"When we were on the plane back from Hua Hin I told the lads, who were mates from school, that I was really itchy all over my body.
"They said there was nothing wrong with me and it was from all the alcohol I'd drunk and from being in the sun.
"I thought that maybe I'd been bitten by a bug. I remember thinking 'this isn't right' and I slept all the way home.”
Andrew continued: “The day I got back I fainted at home but didn't think anything of it. I thought it was dehydration from a really bad hangover.
"I was a bit dazzled when I came to and wondered what was going on. I thought it was dehydration so I went downstairs to drink some water but didn't think anything of it.
"Then the itchiness got even worse, it was a constant itching that drove me mad, I couldn't concentrate on anything.
"I couldn't see a rash, I could just feel it on the back of my arm.”
Andrew, an ex-army logistic supply specialist for the Royal Logistics Corp, saw his doctor three days later.
“He thought it was an allergic reaction from drinking.
"I took the antihistamine tablets for two days and then at 1am I went to the toilet and I hit the floor and was frozen, I couldn't do anything.
"My dad came running in to see what was up with me and called for an ambulance.”
They needed to use a wheelchair to push me around the hospital as I kept shaking. I said to the doctor 'no it can't be that, no chance'.
After fainting in the bathroom, Andrew was rushed to Queen's Hospital in Burton where doctors ran blood tests and a chest X-ray.
“They took me to hospital and did lots of blood tests – my heart, kidney, liver and everything came back perfect.
"The doctors were amazed by what was up with me and said they were going to run an X-ray on my chest.
"They found a 10cm dark black shadow across my chest. Having good results from the other tests made me think it was nothing."
Although Andrew was convinced he was fine, he underwent another X-ray before being taken to a private room.
“I was told it could be lung cancer,” Andrew said.
"It's the worst thing you can hear and it was a massive shock. I went white and passed out.
"They needed to use a wheelchair to push me around the hospital as I kept shaking. I said to the doctor 'no it can't be that, no chance'.”
NEVER IGNORE THESE SYMPTOMS
- Unexplained weight loss
- Unusual swellings or lumps
- Cough that won't go away
- Mole changes
- Blood in your stools or urine
- Urination problems, like dribbling, leaking or waking up in the night to use the toilet
- Unexplained pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Night sweats
Doctors initially thought Andrew had lung cancer but, after doing a biopsy of his neck, discovered he in fact had NHL.
The cancer can affect the thymus or lymph nodes in the chest, likely the cause of the shadow on Andrew’s chest X-ray.
NHL is a cancer of the lymphatic system, usually starting in the lymph nodes which a bean-sized glands various parts of the body such as the armpit and neck.
There are around 14,000 cases in the UK a year, with more than a third in people over 75 years old.
Andrew said: "I didn't know anything about it but then I met my cancer nurse who talked me through everything, she was amazing."
After being diagnosed with stage 2a NHL, in his chest and neck, Andrew underwent a gruelling three-month course of chemo starting in August 2019.
He said: “I had chemo every two weeks for three months. I got lucky that I didn't need any radiotherapy and I beat it really soon, perhaps because of my age.
"I found chemo easier than a lot of people. It made me really tired, pretty grumpy and very hungry so I put on a lot of weight. I wasn't sick but I did lose my hair on the last treatment.”
On the mend
Andrew was given the all-clear in November.
Afterwards he met his girlfriend Indre Arbacauskaite, a 31-year-old lettings co-ordinator.
The active duo regularly go hiking and mountain climbing, as Andrew said: "Exercise helped me a lot.
“When I finished treatment I met my girlfriend and we did a lot of mountain climbing and hiking around the Peak District. She motivated me.
"When I was having treatment I was a bit of a slob, I'd given up [on exercise]. But she pushed me to do everything and really motivated me.
"Now I play golf too and I want to get into kayaking.”
Andrew was diagnosed just months after his beloved gran Jean Warson died after a 20-year battle with stomach cancer – which Andrew described as the “hardest thing for the family”.
Wanting to give back to the nurses who helped his gran, Andrew has decided to do a sponsored 26-mile hike for Macmillan Cancer Support.
He said: "The Macmillan nurses were always good with my gran and I just wanted to give something back."
Andrew is also urging anyone with unusual symptoms to get them checked out.
“I've had friends saying they feel itchy and tired and I've said to always get it checked,” he said.
"I just thought it was nothing and it turned out to be NHL."
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