A fit young man was diagnosed with a deadly condition after he was repeatedly denied a GP appointment for almost half a year.
Alistair Gibson, 23, from Inverness started experiencing a persistent cough back in March 2020 which left him hacking up blood.
Terrified, Alistair begged his GP for a face-to-face appointment but was refused every time for five months, despite testing negative for Covid.
"You feel so insignificant and defenceless," the young lad said.
When the court officer finally got an appointment, his GP mistakenly thought he had Covid-related pneumonia and referred him onto specialists.
In January 2022, almost a whole year after his symptoms first appeared, an ear, nose and throat specialist diagnosed Alistair with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma – a deadly form of cancer.
Hodgkin's lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system, which is part of the body's germ-fighting immune system.
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"That diagnosis broke every little part of me down," he said.
In the face of a death sentence, Alistair was most worried about his family.
"I was always the overcautious one, the one who looks after others, takes their time and doesn’t take risks often. I couldn't face my mum, I didn't want to hurt her."
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Medics put Alistair, who plays American Football in his free time, on an aggressive treatment plan, which included several cycles of chemotherapy.
Soon after his first cycle, Alistair's nightmare grew worse as he became septic and ended up in the ICU for 11 days.
"I was in a very bad place and was fighting a losing battle mentally and physically," he said.
What are the signs of lymphoma cancer?
There are two main kinds of lymphoma – Hodgkin Lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.
Lymphoma can cause many different symptoms, depending on which type of lymphoma it is and where it develops in the body.
The most typical signs are:
- Swollen lymph nodes, such as in the neck, armpit or groin area
- Night sweats
- Extreme tiredness
- Unexplained weight loss
- Excessive bleeding, such as nosebleeds, heavy periods and spots of blood under the skin
Other signs of lymphoma cancer in a more localised area include:
- Swelling of the stomach, loss of appetite and other abdominal symptoms
- Coughing, shortness of breath, or chest pain
"Mentally it was the hardest, I felt like a waste.
"I couldn't look at myself in the mirror, and spent nights in hospital pulling out chunks of my hair," he explained.
Despite claiming he didn't receive a GP appointment for almost half a year Alistair said he did not blame his GP and "understands their position" regarding backlogs.
Instead, he blames the Government for his late diagnoses and said his GPs were not "supported enough".
After months of vigorous treatment, Alistair was given the all-clear from cancer on 18 August 2022, and is now hoping to start training again for his passion, American football.
"Now I'm feeling great, mentally there's still hurdles and moments you fall back into it all but I'm blessed with an amazing network of people around me who cared for me and motivated me to keep going.
As well as starting up his fitness journey again, Alistair also wants to raise awareness on cancer, urging people "not to be afraid" to get checked.
He added: "I saw myself as a big strong athletic guy who doesn’t show emotion but cancer doesn't care about that, it will break you no matter what, it’s all about how you respond to it.
"I preach now to young men about opening up and expressing your feelings.
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"It's ok not to be ok and people do care about you, it's not weak to need help.
"There's always help around for you and don't ever try and fight it on your own."
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