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Ferghal O’Connor

written by

Leukaemia Care, Charity

  • Ferghal O’Connor

Diagnosed with AML, this is my story so far...

Ferghal O’Connor was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) following tests for what he thought was tonsillitis. Here, he tells his story.

I was diagnosed with AML on 30th May 2011 in Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry after suffering for weeks with a severe sore throat. Prior to this, I was never sick but looking back I was having frequent colds and night sweats in the lead up to my diagnosis. Life as I knew it changed, not only for me, but also for my wife, Linda and my eight year old daughter, Ella. We didn’t know much about leukaemia, only what we read in the newspapers or saw on TV. Needless to say, we now know a lot more about this illness.

I was experiencing all of the common signs and symptoms of AML; fatigue, shortness of breath, bruising easily. I was also at an increased risk of infection. As you can imagine, following a blood cancer diagnosis I was full of emotion, feeling confused, wondering why me. I had lots of questions to ask which the staff at the Belfast City Hospital did a great job in answering making us feel more at ease.

Thankfully, my illness was treatable. I was hospitalised for six months and during that time I underwent four courses of intensive chemotherapy. I was forever feeling drained but I knew I had to keep fighting. I would often wonder, how will I get through this? The answer came in the form of my family, friends and a positive mind frame, with at least one good belly laugh a day.

The drugs I was prescribed upset me mentally, physically and emotionally and as such I came across many dark days. The staff in the hospital were phenomenal and would often keep me on the right path. The days felt long, but I read a lot, kept myself updated with sport, news, current affairs and got to know my fellow patients, as one of them said “we are all in this together”.

My luck began to change, I was told that I was in remission and could soon return home. On 4th November 2011, that special day came, and I returned home to my wife and daughter following a successful first course of chemotherapy. Still to this day I remain in remission and for that I am truly thankful.

Life is good at the minute, some days can be tougher than others but I have great support around me. Each month I make a donation to NILRF who apply research in to all types of blood cancer in Northern Ireland.