I was diagnosed with low-grade NHL, Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, in September 2009 as a result of a frightening pleural effusion (lymphatic fluid around the lung) severely affecting my breathing.  I was treated with chemotherapy, CHOP followed by R-CHOP (Rituximab, standard treatment for NHL).  I lost most of my hair, learned how to manage nausea/constipation and fatigue, learned how to walk again and re-build my strength, made major changes to my diet and promises to myself to slow down and change my way of life.

I relapsed in January 2012 so embarked on harsher R-CHOP throughout, losing all my hair this time.  Initially a stem cell transplant was recommended after chemo to gain longer term remission but then changed to a stem cell collection, to be frozen if needed later, and treatment with Zevalin, a fairly new monoclonal antibody with a radioactive particle attached.  Stem cell collection was complicated for me, quite a saga, but eventually done and Zevalin administered in September 2012.

The relapse focussed my mind on my priorities, what is important in my life and how I should best use whatever time is left to me.  So I’ve tried to slow down, relax, say no (though people are good about not asking me to do things these days), enjoy new things, write more, exercise more, nurture my spirituality, meditate, make time to listen to others.  I helped set up The Living Tree in October 2012 and the group has been a huge source of strength and inspiration as well as friendship and fun.  I can’t imagine life without it now.

I am blessed with a loving and supportive husband, two beautiful daughters, three endearing grandchildren and so many kind and generous friends.  They have all helped me through the most difficult times.  I am grateful to the doctors and nurses and the amazing medical care I have received.  And I feel God close to me always.

Cancer has opened and continues to open new doors for me, new ideas, new friendships, new opportunities.  I don’t look back but try and live in the present moment, counting my blessings.

Jo O’Farrell – February 2013


Jo O’Farrell co-founded The Living Tree in October 2012 and was one of the driving forces in its formative years leading to her being awarded the MBE in the Queen’s 2018 New Year’s Honours. Jo died as a result of her NHL in July 2018 shortly after receiving her award from HRH the Prince of Wales.