© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2022

Woman diagnosed with eczema actually had cancer

Emma Olsen
Amy and her family
Amy and her family   Amy Ewald

An Otago woman diagnosed with cancer had been told by doctors it was just eczema.

Amy Ewald, 33, is undergoing her second cycle of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma on February 28.

The mother-of-two from Balclutha was relieved when she found out she had cancer.

"I had been suffering from the itch and cough for over six months and I was over it. The medication for the eczema obviously wasn't doing anything and I was beyond frustrated. So when I knew what it finally was, I was relieved that there was something more to it."

It all started for Amy mid-2019 when she developed itchy hands and feet, and an annoying cough.

In August she visited her parents in Malaysia and was told by doctors there that it was scabies. When she came back to NZ in October, the itch became even worse.

Amy developed a bad rash over her back, legs, and feet in December. 

Amys foot rash v2
Itchy rash on Amy's foot Amy Ewald


Dunedin doctors kept telling Amy it was due to eczema and hay fever. She was given countless amounts of antihistamines, nasal sprays and even sleeping pills.

"I was on the highest possible dose of topical steroids and even that didn't help. I was losing my mind."

Amy continuously was sent home as the itch and cough never amounted to anything, however, she noticed a lump on her neck near the clavicle.

"My GP sent me for a non-urgent ultrasound and I was told it's probably just the eczema acting up, and my lymph nodes swelling because of it."

On February 19, Amy had her scan and by the afternoon was referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist. 

One week later, Amy was diagnosed with cancer.

"As soon as I heard the news, my husband and I just wanted to start treatment. My parents took it a bit harder, they couldn't quite believe that their young daughter had cancer."

Amy's close friend Nikki Templeton immediately started a Givealittle page to help fly her parents to NZ before the nation went into lockdown.

"We were hoping for around $3000 to help offset the cost of her parents coming over from Malaysia to help out as live support for her and the kids," said Nikki.

Amy and her family had moved from Wellington to Dunedin two years ago and Nikki thought making a Givealittle page would be the most practical way to offer help from a distance.

When Amy found out about the page, she was very overwhelmed.

"I cried so hard when the donations came in. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the amount of support and help we would receive. It has been absolutely mind-blowing. I love all my friends, but knowing that I'm loved as well just makes me bawl like a baby," she said. 

Unfortunately, the borders closed before Amy's parents could fly over, but she is going to get them here as soon as the restrictions are lifted and is using the money to ease many different financial burdens from treatment. 

Despite the cancer having zapped all of Amy's energy and stopped her from working, she said she is staying positive and can't wait to get back to work and feel normal again.

"I want to run and swim and give my children and husband the biggest cuddles and kisses ever."

Amys children aged 3 and 2 1/2 years old
Amy's children aged 3 and 2 1/2 years old Amy Ewald


Hodgkins Lymphoma is a relatively rare disease with only around 75 New Zealanders being diagnosed with it each year. 

It is a cancer of the lymphatic system which is a part of the immune system and mainly affects the lymphocytes. 

Symptoms for Hodgkins Lymphoma can include; swollen lymph nodes in the neck under the arms or groin, regular and frequent fevers, excessive sweating, usually at night and often drenching, weight loss, generalised itching, and persistent fatigue and lack of energy.

If you or someone you know would like to help Amy, you can donate to her Givealittle page here: