Sydney woman Briony Benjamin felt “crappy” and tired for a year, but her symptoms were initially brushed off by doctors.

Briony was suffering chronic fatigue, itchy skin, night sweats and a persistent cough. She went to three different doctors in a bid to figure out the cause of her ailments, however her symptoms were dismissed as “hormonal”.

It ended up taking 18 months of searching for the 31-year-old to finally receive a diagnosis of Hodgkin Lymphoma, a blood cancer.

“I was fobbed off,” Briony told 7 News, saying she has learnt you have to really push for answers.

“You are the only one who knows your body and if it feels icky. If your GP isn’t listening, find someone who will.”

At first, Briony said she thought her symptoms were caused by a seafood allergy or a cold.

“Feeling awful had become my new normal. I was so used to always being a bit icky and tired that I had started to believe that this is how I would always feel,” Briony previously wrote in an extract of her book Life is Tough but So Are You. “Perhaps this is what becoming an adult felt like?

“ … The doctors were telling me I was fine, that perhaps I was just ‘stressed’ and needed to rest more.”

She said the exhaustion was a main symptom but she seemed otherwise healthy on the outside.

“I could just never get on top of the pervasive tiredness that had become a constant in my life,” she explained.

“I was having sweats at night and always felt a bit crappy, but otherwise I appeared quite healthy. My body was sending me all the signs, but I didn’t yet know how to listen and trust it.”

However, after her mother lost a friend to blood cancer, she called Briony’s doctor and asked for her to be tested for the disease.

The positive result for Hodgkin Lymphoma was shocking for her and her family.

“I remember my doctor telling me, ‘Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We should just focus on the next three steps’,” she told 7 News.

Those steps involved medical testing and screening – and fertility.

“I was 31, I was still young – it was something I hadn’t really thought about,” she said. “I was basically told that all of the treatment would age my ovaries and potentially render me infertile.”

So Briony underwent the process of freezing her eggs, including hormone injections and other medications to try to have a shot at becoming a mother one day in the future.

“It was an odd reprieve before I started chemo,” Briony said. “It was a small bit of light and joy before the main game began.”

Next came the four-and-a-half months of chemotherapy. She was able to stop treatment six weeks early as she went into remission.

She has now been in remission for five years, is pregnant and “feeling so much better”.

Briony has advised others to seek medical attention if they experience any of the following symptoms; anaemia, kidney damage, persistent tiredness, bone pain, dizziness, frequent or repeated infections, increased or unexplained bleeding or bruising, or high calcium level in the blood.

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By Rahul

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