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Caroline Wood

written by

Leukaemia Care, Charity

  • Caroline Wood1

I have been living with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) since April 2009, after being diagnosed at the age of 38. For about four months before I was diagnosed, I never felt 100%.

I had a persistent cough that wouldn’t disappear, I was chronically fatigued, my gums would bleed and my nose would burst with blood. I finally realised something was wrong when I started bruising; huge bruises on my legs that just didn't make sense.

I went to my GP and, following a routine blood test, was told that day I had to go to A&E straightaway. The rest is history. I was diagnosed with CML and spent just under a week in hospital where I was subjected to bone marrow biopsies, blood tests and x-rays.

Initially, I was put on to the treatment imatinib, which came with some side effects such as nausea, bone ache, tiredness and swollen eyes. But despite these, it became clear after a year and a half that the imatinib wasn't working; I had become resistant and intolerant to it. The levels of leukaemic cells in my system had risen to the point where I was close to needing a bone marrow transplant, but my consultant wanted to try me on a similar treatment, nilotinib, first before subjecting me to a bone marrow transplant.

I'm not saying that nilotinib is a walk in the park. But four years on I am now in major molecular response (MMR) and feel completely ‘normal’ again.

During this whole process, I've suffered with not only psychological and emotional side effects of dealing with a diagnosis of cancer at the age of 38, but also the physical side effects of the medication. Nilotinib has done a great job but it's taken a long time for me to get to grips with the side effects and how to manage them on a day-to-day basis. Classic side effects include nausea, gagging and weight loss due to lack of appetite. I just didn't feel like eating and I went down to a very unhealthy 7 stone 8lbs. I was getting thinner and thinner, until a friend of mine recommended taking a probiotic tablet to replace the good bacteria that the tablet was stripping out of my stomach. I took a leap of faith and it seemed to work! I now have a normal appetite again and am back up to a healthy weight.

Other side effects I’ve had to contend with is an itchy scalp and facial rashes. I started taking Evening Primrose Oil tablets which reduced these side effects to almost non-existent.

It’s taken a while for me to get to grips with the psychological, emotional and physical effects of cancer, but I try not to dwell on it too much. I have a wonderful family, two fab dogs and great friends.

I have my own business now and believe I am a better businesswoman for the life experiences I have been through. The moral of my story is that it’s all about how you deal with the bad experiences that get thrown your way,

It’s about how you take that horrible experience and turn it into something positive.