Facebook boss's plea: Help me find a cure for my rare cancer
The head of Facebook in Europe has disclosed that she has incurable cancer, but said she hopes to use the social network to raise awareness and aid the search for potential cure.
Nicola Mendelsohn, 46, a mother of four, was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma a year ago and has decided to “watch and wait” rather than start chemotherapy straight away.
Facebook’s vice-president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa has joined other sufferers on the social network to raise the profile of the cancer.
Revealing her diagnosis, she wrote on Facebook: “I often talk about how people can seize their own destiny, so it’s tough to be reminded that there are things you can’t control.“Just over a year ago, I was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma — a slow-developing cancer of the white blood cells that’s not rare and that has no cure. It is quite an unknown disease, which is why I’ve decided to raise awareness by telling my story in the hope of driving research and better understanding of it.”
She says the diagnosis has not changed her as she has always been an optimist who is “even more grateful” for what she has been given. When she was diagnosed in November 2016, she had not been feeling tired or unwell, but had noticed a lump on her groin which she discussed with a GP, who referred her to a gynaecologist, who in turn sent her for a scan. It showed “tumours up and down my body” but, as it was a Friday, further tests were delayed until the following Monday.“I had a horrible two days trying to process it. It was worse that I didn’t find out all in one go. I couldn’t stop crying that weekend, grieving for the life I’d had before,” she said.
When she and her husband Jonathan, a Labour peer, told their four children aged between 13 and 20, her youngest asked: “Are you going to die?”
Lord Mendelsohn, who last month lost his place on the Labour front bench after attending the all-male Presidents Club dinner, has been “amazing, my absolute rock”, Mendelsohn said.
The disease is the most common type of slow-growing non-Hodgkin lymphomas, but is usually found in men over 65. Sixty percent of people with lymphomas live for more than 10 years, but for a woman in her 40s “it doesn’t feel acceptable”, she said.Follicular lymphoma
Follicular lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The lymphoma cells build up in lymph nodes. The most common symptom is a painless swelling in the neck, armpit or groin. Follicular lymphoma is slow-growing and does not always need to be treated straight away. When treatment is needed, it usually involves a combination of chemotherapy and a antibody called rituximab.She decided to “watch and wait” as there is no change in life expectancy depending on when the treatment starts. She is having further scans and if the tumours grow she will begin chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
“My decision might well have been different if there were a cure for follicular lymphoma, but as it stands in 2018, there is none,” she said.
It is not “high-profile” and so she is trying to raise awareness and investment in the search for a cure.
She has turned to Facebook for support and has joined and helped to develop the group Living with Follicular Lymphoma, which now has 3,500 members. She said: “It is the largest collection of patients living with follicular lymphoma that has existed. Lately we’ve attracted a number of medical researchers and doctors.”
– © The Daily Telegraph