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A man has revealed that he was given a cancer diagnosis after waiting five months to get his symptoms investigated.
Alistair Gibson, 23, from Inverness, suspected that something was wrong when he developed a cough that wouldn't go away at the start of last year.
While the symptoms were initially put down as Covid-related pneumonia, he feared it was something more serious, and this was confirmed when he started to cough up blood.
Despite the severity of his symptoms and his negative Covid test, Alistair wasn't given a GP appointment for five months.
When he did eventually get diagnosed in January 2022, he was given the devastating news that he had Stage 4 Hodgkin's lymphoma after a referral to an ear, nose, and throat specialist.
Alistair, who works as a court officer, told NeedToKnow.online: "That diagnosis broke every little part of me down."
"You feel so insignificant and defenceless, that all the happiness has just been swept away.
"My dad and I were at the consultation when they told us and he was speechless.
"My biggest concern was telling my mum, sister and brother. I was always the overcautious one, the one who looks after others, takes their time and doesn't take risks often."
Alistair then began the gruelling process of treating the disease, where he developed sepsis during his first cycle of chemotherapy.
This saw him spend 11 days in intensive care, which had a serious effect on his mental and physical health.
"Mentally it was the hardest, I felt like a waste," he said.
"I couldn't look at myself in the mirror, and spent nights in hospital pulling out chunks of my hair.
"I didn't want my family worrying about me, I beat myself up about it all every single day.
"My mum would see me in hospital and I'd be fine but when she left I cried all night."
However, despite his treatment being delayed because of a lack of GP appointments, the 23-year-old said he understands why there was a backlog and blames the government, not the NHS.
He said: "The NHS and my GP were so backlogged during that moment so I was never angry or felt ignored at them, more the lack of help they got from our government to support them.
"I was concerned that nothing was happening but as soon as they finally saw me, it went rapidly through check-ups, tests and the eventual surgery."
Thankfully, Alistair was given the all-clear in August, and he's now looking forward to the future.
"It felt surreal, it was all over," he said. "I was so proud of myself and what I had gone through."
Alistair is now hoping that by sharing his story, it will encourage other men to 'not to be afraid' to have their symptoms checked.
"I saw myself as a big strong athletic guy who doesn't show emotion but cancer doesn't care about that, it will break you no matter what, it’s all about how you respond to it," he said.
"I preach now to young men about opening up and expressing your feelings.
"It's ok not to be ok and people do care about you, it's not weak to need help."
Tyla has reached out to the NHS for comment.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, contact Macmillan’s Cancer Support Line on 0808 808 00 00, 8am–8pm seven days a week