Facebook Vice President for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, Nicola Mendelsohn revealed on Sunday—World Cancer Day—that she has a currently incurable form of lymphoma.
The VP shared the story of her diagnosis and subsequent experience in an article in The Sunday Times.
Mendelsohn says that in late 2016 she found a tiny lump in her groin. After going for a number of tests and scans, a CT scan showed that she had numerous tumors throughout her body. She was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma, which she called a “terrible shock,” as she “didn’t even feel ill.”
Facebook hired Mendelsohn as its VP of EMEA in 2013. Her position is the company’s most senior outside the U.S. Prior to joining the social network, Mendelsohn worked in advertising for a number of agencies, including Grey London and Karmarama.
Since her diagnosis, Mendelsohn has given up processed sugar and has begun to exercise twice a week. She notes that “it’s ironic, but I feel much healthier now.” Other than changes to her diet and exercise, Mendelsohn has not begun any form of treatment.
Unlike other forms of cancer, Mendelsohn says, follicular lymphoma is slow growing, meaning that patients are able to “survive a long time without treatment.” For now, she has decided to pursue a “watch and wait” approach, meaning she’s monitoring her symptoms. Should they worsen, Mendelsohn would start a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy.
While choosing the approach to treatment is a personal one, Mendelsohn explains that she decided to share her story publicly to raise awareness—both to encourage individuals to check for symptoms and to increase funding into researching follicular lymphoma. Lymphoma is the fifth most common cancer in the U.K., and follicular is the most common of the non-Hodgkin (slow-growing) forms, yet few people know about it and misdiagnosis is common.
“That’s why we need to raise awareness and get more money invested in it, so we can find a cure,” Mendelsohn writes. “With any disease, progress towards treatments is made when people come out to say: ‘What more can we do?’”
“That’s why I want to tell my story. It’s rare to see people in business telling personal stories like this,” she says. “I want to use my voice to help other people.”