Fighting the good fight

MARYKE PENMAN
Last updated 05:00 25/02/2014
Melissa Kerr
KICKING CANCER: Albany student Melissa Kerr, 22, is undergoing chemotherapy to treat Hodgkin’s lymphoma, cancer of the lymphatic system.

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Photos from her blog show Melissa Kerr, 22, sporting a big grin even though she is being pumped full of chemotherapy drugs.

The Albany university student and promising netball player has just begun her third round of the treatment since being diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

Miss Kerr was given the shocking news by her family doctor after having blood tests exactly one month before Christmas.

She says a painful lump had appeared on her neck and she was constantly exhausted.

But the premier netball player says she thought she was just rundown after completing her first year of a double major in criminology and computer science at the University of Auckland.

"It was such a shock. He mentioned it could be this and it could be that, but I never thought it would be cancer," Miss Kerr says.

Hodgkin's lymphoma is cancer of the lymphatic system, a part of the immune system, and has no known specific cause.

It is up to two times more common in males, but more than 75 per cent of those with the disease can be cured of it with common treatments like chemotherapy and radiation.

Miss Kerr has reluctantly put her studies on hold until she is clear of the disease.

Tests show the cancer is present in her neck, chest and hips. "I am a stage four, but it has skipped my organs thankfully."

One of the hardest things has been sitting still, she says.

"At first I thought actually it will be quite nice to have a break, but now I'm itching to get into the gym or go for a run. I'm getting a bit of cabin fever."

During each of her six week-long chemotherapy cycles Miss Kerr spends her days in a hospital bed passing the time sleeping, reading or playing on her iPad.

"Afterwards I feel so sick I can barely eat a meal. I have terrible sleeping patterns too. I wake up at 2am and can't get back to sleep."

Golf has replaced netball for the time being, she says.

"It's the only form of exercise I can do - that and walking."

To prepare for the inevitable hair loss Miss Kerr has opted for a stylish cropped haircut and plans to wear beanies and hats instead of a wig.

Scans show the lump in her neck has disappeared and although it is early days, Miss Kerr says she is optimistic.

"A lot of people keep commenting on how positive I am being. But I don't see the point in being negative, it is what it is."

A fundraising page has been set up by friends and sports mates to help with treatment costs.

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Miss Kerr says she is overwhelmed with the support she is receiving.

Go to melsjourney.co.nz to contribute and to read her progress.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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