‘It could have been so much worse’: Ben Hobday speaks out on cancer symptoms

Eventer Ben Hobday is urging others to be aware of head and neck cancer after his own diagnosis and treatment.

The rider is backing North West Cancer Research’s #SpeakOut campaign this month to try to raise awareness of symptoms and encourage those who may be affected to visit the doctor.

Ben was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma, a type of non-Hogkin’s lymphoma in 2015. He had had a pain in his neck for some weeks but “thought nothing of it” until his barber noticed a lump in his neck, after which Ben made an appointment with his GP.

“Before my diagnosis, I was at the top of my game and felt invincible,” he said.

“I’d had a sore neck for quite a few weeks but thought nothing of it, because I’m always up and down on the horse, some aches and pains are part of the job. It wasn’t until some weeks later when my barber pointed out the lump on my neck, that I thought it could be something more serious.

“Going through treatment was the hardest thing I have ever done, but if the cancer hadn’t been caught when it had, it could have been much worse.”

After diagnosis, in June 2015, Ben was given steroids to shrink the lump, after which he underwent a five-month course of chemotherapy.

He was discharged from hospital in November 2015 and six months later, jumped double clear at Badminton on Mulrys Error, a feat that earned him the Charles Owen moment of the year title at the first H&H Awards in November 2016.

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“It’s so important to raise awareness for head and neck cancer,” Ben said. “I didn’t really know much about it before I was diagnosed and had no idea what the symptoms were.

“Head and neck cancers are one of the biggest cancer killers in the northwest and by sharing my story as part of the #SpeakOut campaign, hopefully I can help raise more awareness of the disease and its symptoms, as well as the support we can offer.

“I would urge anyone, man or woman, to visit their GP if they have any concerns, especially if they notice early cancer warning signs.”

Symptoms include a lump in the throat, difficulty swallowing, a sore throat or cough for more than three weeks a red sore or ulcer in the mouth, blood in spit, hoarseness or changes in the voice and significant weight loss in a short period of time. For more information, visit the charity’s website.

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