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I was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) on 19th August 2015, which came after two months of feeling generally unwell and having a number of signs and symptoms commonly associated with blood cancer. I started feeling extremely tired at late afternoon, not just the tired feeling many of us get when you’ve had a long day at work, but a fatigued feeling to the point where I just needed to sleep. I was a very active person due to my job as a soldier in the British Army, so it was quite easy to spot that something was wrong.
There were a couple of occasions where I woke up in the middle of the night drenched with sweat, feeling like I was in a sauna and I would also get cramp in my calves; the pain would wake me. My fitness was also affected and I was finding any type of exercise difficult. Whilst playing in competitive football matches I wasn’t able to last more than 15 minutes in each game without needing to sit down as I was bright red, breathless and cramping. I also noticed a change in my weight and I lost my appetite. I later learned that this was caused by my enlarged spleen which was pressing on my stomach. This prompted a close friend of mine who I worked and exercised with to book me a doctor’s appointment to have a check up.
I was booked in for a blood test the next morning. While I waited for the nurse to take my blood I wasn’t nervous as I thought it was just a routine check. I even asked the nurse as she jabbed me, ‘How does my blood look?’ She ironically replied with ‘all fine.’ Later that afternoon, when I was called back to see the doctor again for my results, it was not fine at all.
I was told that there was an abnormal white blood count which they suspected to be caused by leukaemia. Needless to say, I was shocked, I didn’t even know what leukaemia was. I asked if it was the big C, to which the doctor replied, ‘I’m afraid it is.’ All the arrangements had been made for me to see a specialist consultant the next day. I left the office to be greeted by my friend who was outside waiting for me where I collapsed in a fit of tears.
I then made one of the hardest calls I have ever had to make and that was to my wife. My friend had advised me to wait to make the call as he didn’t want me to make the call in the state I was in, so I waited until I had calmed down. I am so thankful for what my friend did that evening and for the friendship and support he has given all of us during these hard few months, a true friend for life.
After meeting the specialist the next day, I was in shock, just staring into nothing. I was then taken into a different room and I had some bone marrow extracted from my pelvic bone, a procedure that I would never volunteer to have, but I understand it has to be done.
A week later I was back at the hospital to arrange what treatment I would need. I was given all the information on the two medications available and had a further week to decide which was the one for me. This was because I had to make a visit to a fertility clinic, which was very daunting. As I am a young adult, and there is a risk of becoming infertile due to the medication, I was advised to freeze some of my sperm for the future, as myself and Vicki were still indecisive to whether we would want more children. I started taking nilotinib and I have responded very well, hitting all the key markers with very little side effects.
My wife was very upset at the beginning but since my diagnosis she has been very strong for my sake. She has been there through all my ups and downs giving me her shoulder to cry on or just listening to me when I needed to rant, ‘why me?’
Over the last five months I have realised just how much she does for me and our children and I could not ask for a better friend or wife. Thankfully my children are still too young to fully understand what is happening with their daddy. My mum and my sister both found the news very hard to digest, but all of my close family and friends have supported me and I am forever thankful.
Since my diagnosis I have been at home on sick leave. I have been in the army since I left school at 16-years-old and it’s all I have known; so now it was time to move on and to start my new life as a civilian living with CML. At the moment I am feeling very fit and healthy.
I knew when I started feeling a little better that I wanted to do some work for a blood cancer charity, an event to fundraise, to create awareness and to show people that your life can be as normal as possible living with blood cancer.
I then registered to run the London Marathon on behalf of Leukaemia CARE. I also decided that I was going to run the marathon with Vicki so we both registered. Unfortunately, Vicki had to pull out of the marathon but is still my training partner and will be there on the day cheering me on and to meet me at the finish line. I am really excited to run the marathon as it is something I have always wanted to do. Thanks to Leukaemia CARE, I can.
I’m still on my treatment but am happy and content that my life living with CML will be a long and exciting journey.